Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Verse 1. - Bless the Lord, O my soul (see the comment on Psalm 103:1). O Lord my God, thou art very great. The keynote is struck at once. All the rest will be nothing but a development of this vast theme - God's greatness. Thou art clothed with honour and majesty; or "thou hast robed thyself in glory and grandeur" (Cheyne).
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
Verse 2. - Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment. Light was the first thing created (Genesis 1:3), before either the heaven (Genesis 1:6-8) or the earth (Genesis 1:9, 10). In light God, the invisible, as it were, enshrouds himself, making it the image of his hidden glory. Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain; or, "a canopy" (comp. Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:25). The metaphor is taken from the stretching out or "spreading out" of a tent (see Isaiah 40:22).
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
Verse 3. - Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters. God forms himself an upper chamber, as a dwelling place, in "the waters that are above the firmament" (Genesis 1:7), as a man builds himself an upper chamber with beams and rafters. Who maketh the clouds his chariot (comp. Isaiah 19:1, "Behold, the Lord rideth upon a thick cloud"). Who walketh upon the wings of the wind (comp. Psalm 18:10). The anthropomorphism will be pardoned for the sake of the beauty of the imagery.
Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire:
Verse 4. - Who maketh his angels spirits. Professor Cheyne renders, "Who maketh his messengers of winds;" and so (in substance) Jarchi, Aben. Ezra, Rosenmuller, Professor Alexander, and even Hengstenberg. The difficulty in adopting this rendering is that furnished by the application of the passage in Hebrews 1:7; but the arguments of Hengstenberg go far to meet that difficulty. It is to be noted that our Revisers, while admitting either rendering, have preferred that of Professor Cheyne. And his ministers a flaming fire; or, "his ministers of flame and fire."
Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.
Verse 5. - Who laid the foundations of the earth; rather, as in the margin, who founded the earth upon her bases; i.e. fixed the earth in its place, on bases - not necessarily material bases - which keep it steadily where it is (comp. Job 26:7). That it should not be removed forever (comp. Psalm 93:1).
Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment: the waters stood above the mountains.
Verse 6. - Thou coveredst it with the deep, as with a garment (see Genesis 1:9). A watery covering was spread at first over the whole earth, and enveloped it like a garment. The waters stood above the mountains. The highest inequalities of the land were concealed under the watery integument.
At thy rebuke they fled; at the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
Verse 7. - At thy rebuke they fled. It required only a few words from God (Genesis 1:9) for the whole surface of the earth to be changed. The waters "fled" - they shifted their place - removed from some portions of the earth's surface, and "gathered themselves together" into others, allowing the dry land to appear. Elevations and depressions of the land must have at the same time occurred. At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away (comp. Job 40:9, "Hast thou an arm like God, or canst thou thunder with a voice like his?"). The voice of God, especially when he speaks in "rebuke," is as thunder,
They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
Verse 8. - They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys; rather, they went up mountains; they went down valleys. In the general commotion of the waters, as they "hasted away," sometimes vast waves swept over mountain tops, sometimes huge floods washed down the courses of valleys - a graphic description of the scene which no eye saw, but which the poet figures to himself - a turmoil and confusion beyond that even of the great Deluge itself (see Genesis 7:17-19; Genesis 8:1-3). Unto the place which thou hast (rather, hadst) founded for them. The ocean bed, which had, in intention, been already prepared to receive them.
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over; that they turn not again to cover the earth.
Verse 9. - Thou hast set (or, didst set) a bound that they may not (rather, might not) pass over (comp. Job 38:10, 11; Jeremiah 5:22). The Deluge is for the time beyond the ken of the poet, who is singing God's greatness in nature, and in the general laws under which he has placed it. Neither turn again to cover the earth. This law, once Broken by the miracle of the Deluge, was thenceforth made absolute and inviolable (Genesis 9:15).
He sendeth the springs into the valleys, which run among the hills.
Verse 10. - He sendeth the springs into the valleys; rather, into the water courses, or torrent beds - dry for the greater part of the year, but deriving life and beauty from the springs which, after rain has fallen, flow into them. Which run among the hills; literally, between the hills (i.e. the hill slopes on either side) they wend their way.
They give drink to every beast of the field: the wild asses quench their thirst.
Verse 11. - They give drink to every beast of the field. God's mercy is "over all his works" (Psalm 145:9). He careth for the whole animal creation (see Exodus 20:10; Exodus 23:19; Deuteronomy 25:4; Psalm 104:27; Psalm 145:15, 16; Jonah 4:11, etc.). The wild asses quench their thirst. Herodotus (4:192) says that wild asses are ἄποτοι - i.e. "do not drink" but modern travellers declare the contrary. They drink infrequently, and are so shy, that at such times they rarely fall under human observation.
By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches.
Verse 12. - By them; i.e. "by the springs" (see ver. 10). Shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation. Birds need water as much as any other animals, and in dry tracts frequently congregate at the springs. Which sing (or, utter a voice) among the branches of the trees which in the East spring up wherever there is moisture.
He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
Verse 13. - He (i.e. God) watereth the hills from his chambers (comp. ver. 3). The mountains themselves, even their highest tops, are not left dry. Where springs cannot reach, rain falls from God's "chambers" in the sky, and spreads equal refreshment. The earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. The whole earth - mountains, hills, plains, valleys - is thus "satisfied," i.e. sufficiently supplied with water, by the means which God has elaborated.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth;
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.
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.
Verse 15. - And wine that maketh glad the heart of man. The food suitable to man consists, first, of wine, which gladdens his heart (comp. Judges 9:13); secondly, of oil to make his face to shine, or give him a cheerful countenance; and thirdly, of bread, which strengtheneth man's heart, which is "the staff of life," and the main sustenance of the entire body. It was the glory of the promised land to produce in abundance these three essentials (Deuteronomy 8:8; Deuteronomy 11:14; 2 Kings 18:32).
The trees of the LORD are full of sap; the cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
Verse 16. - The trees of the Lord are full of sap; rather, are satisfied, or have their fill; i.e. drink in sufficiently God's rain, so that they grow up and flourish amazingly. Even the cedars of Lebanon (see Psalm 29:5, 6; Psalm 92:11). These are particularized as the grandest of God's vegetable productions known to the psalmist (comp. Judges 9:15; 1 Kings 4:33; 2 Kings 14:19; Isaiah 2:13; Ezekiel 31:3). Which he hath planted (comp. Numbers 24:6).
Where the birds make their nests: as for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
Verse 17. - Wherein the birds make their nests (comp. above, ver. 10). As for the stork, the fir trees are her house. Again, God's care for the animal creation is in the psalmist's mind. As the grass is "caused to grow for the cattle" (ver. 14), so trees - even the grandest - are partly intended for the birds.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats; and the rocks for the conies.
Verse 18. - The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats. Even the desolate ranges of the higher mountains are designed by God for the good of his creatures. They furnish a refuge for the ibex, or wild goat, when the hunter presses ca him; and, if they cannot give him food, give him safety. And the rocks for the conies; rather, for the marmots. Marmots still inhabit Palestine, though they are rarely seen; "conies," i.e. rabbits do not. The marmots are "a feeble folk, that make their houses in the rocks" (Proverbs 30:26).
He appointed the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.
Verse 19. - He appointed the moon for seasons (comp. Genesis 1:14). The Jewish festivals depended greatly on the moon, the Passover being celebrated at the time of the full moon of the first month (Exodus 12:6), and the other festivals depending mostly on the Passover. And the sun knoweth his going down. Observes the laws, that is to say, appointed for him.
Thou makest darkness, and it is night: wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth.
Verses 20, 21. - Thou makest darkness, and it is night. The mention of the moon and sun introduces a picture of night (vers. 20, 21) and a picture of the day (vers. 22, 23). The day draws in - darkness descends - night is come. At once there is a stir in the animal world. Man has gone to his rest; but the time is arrived wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth. The primeval jungle is alive with motion and sound. All the animals are on the alert. seeking their prey. The young lions are heard above all; they roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God. The awful sound of their hungry roar drowns almost all other sounds, and shakes with terror the hearts of those that hear. Suddenly, however, night turns into day -
The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God.
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens.
Verses 22, 23. - The sun ariseth. Bright beams of light flame up the eastern sky; and earth basks in the sun's smile. But it is a signal to the lions and the other wild beasts to withdraw. They gather themselves together, and lay them down in their dens. Hiding themselves from the eye of day, and retreating into places where they are safe. Then it is the turn of humanity to reappear. Humanity wakes up; and man goeth forth auto his work and to his labour uutil the evening; i.e. man proceeds to his appointed task, which is "work" - once a curse (Genesis 3:17-19), now a blessing (Ephesians 4:28).
Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
Verse 24. - O Lord, how manifold are thy works! This is a parenthetic ejaculation, from which the psalmist cannot refrain, as he contemplates creation so far. It breaks the continuity of his description (vers. 2-32), but not unpleasingly. In wisdom hast thou made them all (comp. Proverbs 3:19, "The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens"). (On the "wisdom" of God, as shown in creation, see the whole series of 'Bridgewater Treatises.') The earth is full of thy riches; or possessions (comp. Psalm 105:21). "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" (Psalm 24:1). Creation gives the right of ownership.
So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
Verse 25. - So is this great and wide sea; rather, yonder sea too (is thy work), so great and wide stretching. Wherein are things creeping (rather, moving things) innumerable. The abundant life of the sea, even in its depths, is the admiration of all naturalists. Tens of thousands of microscopic shells have been brought to light by the dredger's labours almost everywhere. Both small and great beasts. Microscopic shellfish on the one hand; seals, walruses, sharks, whales, on the other.
There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
Verse 26. - There go the ships. These may seem out of place among the works of God. But are they not his, in a certain sense? Did he not contemplate them when he made the sea, and make it to some extent for them? And did he not give men wisdom to invent and perfect them? There is that leviathan. "Leviathan" is here probably the whale, which may in early times have frequented the Mediterranean. Which thou hast made to play therein; or, to play with him. So the LXX. (ἐμπαίζειν αὐτῷ); and, among moderns, Ewald, Hitzig, Olshausen, Kay, Cheyne, and our Revisers (in the margin). The anthropomorphism is not beyond that of other passages.
These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
Verse 27. - These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season (see vers. 14, 23). As cattle have "grass," and lions "meat," from God, so every kind of animal receives from the same source its proper food.
That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
Verse 28. - That thou givest them they gather; literally, thou givest to them; they gather. Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good; or, "are satisfied with good" (Kay, Revised Version).
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.
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.
Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.
Verse 30. - Thou sendest forth thy spirit; or, thy breath. As God "breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life" (Genesis 2:7), so it is an effluence from him that gives life to every living thing. They are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth. As after the Deluge (see Genesis 7:4; Genesis 8:17).
The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.
Verse 31. - The glory of the Lord shall endure forever; rather, let the glory of the Lord, etc. The psalmist prays that there may be no further interruption of the glorious course of nature besides the Deluge, which has come into his thoughts in connection with the destruction of animal life (ver. 29). Henceforward he trusts and prays that the Lord shall rejoice in his works, and not again repent him that he has made them (Genesis 6:7).
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth: he toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
Verse 32. - He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth (comp. Psalm 18:7; Psalm 114:7). The earth "trembles," as knowing that it can be destroyed at any moment. He toucheth the hills, and they smoke; or, the mountains - the strongest portions of the earth (Psalm 36:6; Psalm 65:6) - "smoke" when he touches them (see Exodus 19:18; Deuteronomy 4:11; Psalm 144:5).
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
Verses 33-35. - The peroration (like the opening) is simple praise of God himself, considered in himself. All his life the psalmist will praise God (ver. 33) - his soul shall praise him (ver. 35), he will be glad in him (ver. 34); finally, he calls upon all men to join in his praise (ver. 35, last clause). Verse 33. - I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live (comp. Psalm 63:4; Psalm 146:2): I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. An echo of the preceding hemistich.
My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the LORD.
Verse 34. - My meditation of him shall be sweet; rather, may my meditation be pleasing to him! (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). I be glad in the Lord (comp. Psalm 32:11; Psalm 33:1, etc.). Rejoicing in the Lord is a form of praising him.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless thou the LORD, O my soul. Praise ye the LORD.
Verse 35. - Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth; i.e. "Let the great blot upon creation - sin and sinners - exist no more. Let the harmony upon the earth be complete, by the elimination of this "one jarring string." And let the wicked be no more. Repetition for the sake of emphasis. Bless thou the Lord, O my soul. Then, when this blot is removed, when the trials of the godly, from the persecutions and vexations of sinners, are over, it will be the part of my soul, with greater heartiness than ever, to "bless the Lord." Praise ye the Lord. Then, too, all mankind may well be called upon to join in a chorus of praise and blessing, and to sing, as saints and angels sing in the courts of heaven, "Hallelujah!" (Revelation 19:1, 3, 4, 6).