The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 104

Psa 104:1

See Lesson, Psalms, "Hallelujah".

PSA 104: A survey of the days of creation, with numerous allusions to Isa 6.

PRAISE THE LORD, O MY SOUL: This perfectly appropriate beginning and ending to the psalm matches Psa 103: Thanksgiving to God for His abundant longsuffering and lovingkindness is followed by further thanksgiving for the marvels of His Creation (and of His New Creation).

Psa 104:2

HE WRAPS HIMSELF IN LIGHT AS WITH A GARMENT: Amo 4:13; Isa 44:24; 45:7; Jer 10:12. (NT) The Transfiguration (Mat 17:2; Luk 9:29; 2Pe 1:16,17). The Glory of God is to be seen in the Glory of Christ (2Co 3:18; 4:6).

HE STRETCHES OUT THE HEAVENS LIKE A TENT: Cp Isa 40:22. "Curtain" = "yeriah", found 43 of 53 total times in Exo 26; 36 -- re the curtains of the Mosaic tabernacle. The Holy of Holies, as the dwelling-place of God in the midst of His people, is spoken of as "heaven": 2Ch 30:27 (note italics); 36:15; 1Ki 8:27-33; Psa 20:2,6; 11:4; 18:6; 26:8; Heb 7:26. Heaven, in the sense of the expanse of the firmament, is the impassable barrier between man and God (Exo 24:10; Eze 1:26,28). The temple counterpart to this was the veil (Exo 26:1; 36:8,13), seen by Isaiah the priest (Isa 6:1).

Psa 104:3

AND LAYS THE BEAMS OF HIS UPPER CHAMBERS ON THEIR WATERS: Either the mountains rooted under the ocean, or (more likely) the waters in the clouds (v 13). As to the second possibility, note the // with v 3b, and see also the previous note. "Chambers" is the Heb "aliyoth", or -- singular -- "aliyah" (sw v 13), translated "pavilion" in the NEB -- which sig an upper room, often built on the roof as a retreat (Jdg 3:20-25; 1Ki 17:19,23; 2Ki 1:2; 4:10,11; 23:12; 1Ch 28:11; 2Ch 3:9; 9:4). Thus a fitting symbol of heaven itself -- God's "retreat", so to speak.

HE MAKES THE CLOUDS HIS CHARIOT: Cp Psa 18:10,11; 97:2, notes. Notice the change of pronoun: it is not "Thy" (as in vv 1,2,6,7, etc.), but "his" -- that is, Christ's cherubim chariot (cp "his angels", ie Christ's, as in Heb 1 repeatedly). This is the essential point in Heb 1:7: that even the angels now belong to Christ!

Psa 104:4

HE MAKES WINDS HIS MESSENGERS: Cp Eze 37:9; Dan 7:2; Rev 7:1. Or, "Who maketh his angels spirits" (AV). That is, vehicles of the power of God (cp Heb 1:7,14), like the retinue of servants in the royal palace.

FLAMES OF FIRE HIS SERVANTS: Cp the Cherubim, with a flaming sword (or a sword of flame!), which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life (Gen 3:24).

Psa 104:5

Yet ct v 32: At God's behest even the foundations of the earth may tremble! Also cp Psa 103:17; 102:25-27: God's "foundations" and God's "mercies" are both everlasting! But, fig, those "foundations" will be removed when a "New Creation" is to be brought in. This coming in of a new world was prefigured by the Flood, which appears to be the point of vv 6-9 (cp Gen 7:19; 8:1-3).

Psa 104:7

See Lesson, Leviathan -- esp the "Creation" myth.

Psa 104:8

The RSV (cp the RV mg) is more intelligible: "The mountains rose, the valleys sank down." This was all part of the work of Day 2, but it was also a feature of the great Flood.

Psa 104:9

The rainbow covenant of Gen 8:21,22. Never again will the waters cover the earth as they once did (Gen 9:11; Isa 54:9; Jer 5:22; Pro 8:27-29; Job 38:8-11). The Deluge, though transient, was an important feature in the ongoing work of Creation; and it is a type (2Pe 3:4-13; Luk 17:26,27; Mat 24:37-39) of the re-creation of the New World by Christ at his coming.

Psa 104:11

The wild donkeys are proverbial for their independence (Gen 16:12; Job 39:5-8). Nevertheless, unknown to them, God provides for their thirst.

Psa 104:14

The Creation was designed both "to serve" man and "to be served (or 'cultivated') by" man. Either rendering is poss, though the latter should prob be emphasized here (cp v 23). Thus: 'No work, no food' (2Th 3:10; cp Exo 20:9). So it is also with the spiritual "food" of God's Word.

Psa 104:15

The vine (for wine), olive tree (for oil), and wheat and barley (for bread) figure as the major staples of life in Palestine. "The constant bracketing of these three products together shows how they dominated the agriculture of the country (Gen 27:28,37; Deu 7:13; 11:14; 12:17; 14:23; 18:4; 28:51; 33:28; 2Ki 18:32; 2Ch 31:5; 32:28; Psa 4:7; Isa 36:17; Lam 2:12; Hos 2:5,8,22; Joe 1:10; Hag 1:11)" (Baly 84).

The light of love to live by,
The wine of friendship for sharing,
The bread of peace to nourish heart and soul...
For these we give thanks each day.

(NT) Following the AV mg (and KD and BDB), this v describes only two products: (1) wine that maketh glad the heart of man, "to make his shine as with oil"; and (2) bread which strengtheneth man's heart. Thus this v gives the two great gifts -- bread and wine -- by which we remember and celebrate our fellowship with the Father through His Son. Each Sunday the bread and wine are the means of memorializing the strength and joy of our new life in Christ.

WINE THAT GLADDENS THE HEART OF MAN: This Creation ref to the vine and its produce surely vetoes the idea that wine was not known before the Flood (Gen 9:20,21). It is plain that wine, far from being an evil, is -- as this v informs us -- a good thing (cp Gen 14:18; Num 15:5; Jdg 9:13; Ecc 10:19; Pro 31:6,7; Joh 2:10), when used in moderation (1Ti 5:23). But, like many of God's blessings and gifts, it can become a curse when indulged in to excess (Pro 20:1; 23:29-35; Eph 5:18; 1Pe 4:3).

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

Psa 104:16

What a lovely picture of angels planting cedars in Lebanon! And (v 21) providing young lions with their prey. And (v 26) romping playfully with mighty sea-monsters (and the world empires which they represent?).

Psa 104:18

The coneys are the hyraxes, small and shy rock-dwelling mammals (Pro 30:26).

Psa 104:19

THE MOON MARKS OFF THE SEASONS: Or, "He appointed the moon for seasons" (AV). "Appointed" is the Heb "asah", which is also translated "made" in Gen 1:16: "And God made two great lights." The moon, and the sun, were not created on the fourth day, but they were, at that time, appointed for signs. "Seasons" = Heb "moedim", a word which always refs to Heb religious festivals; the entire Jewish calendar is based on the moon.

The psalmist is celebrating the way each element of creation plays its part perfectly, as God planned.

Psa 104:24

Everything in Creation is "Thy riches", "Thy store". Yet man treats the earth's vast treasure troves as his own, to plunder and spoil at will, for short-term pleasure and profit.

God's wisdom is demonstrated in Creation (Pro 8:22-24; 3:19; Psa 136:5), so as to reflect His glory (Num 14:21; Pro 16:4)) and His immutable purpose (Isa 45:18; Joh 1:1-3). God's power in Creation is proof of the availability of that same power to save faithful men and women (Psa 147:3,4).

Psa 104:26

THE SHIPS: In a psalm celebrating the marvels of God's handiwork and the wisdom of all His creative work, why should there be this one solitary phrase about what man contrives? Perhaps, in view of the context (vv 25, 26b, "Leviathan"), sb read as a poetic allusion to the great creatures often seen on the surface of the ocean -- the whales, porpoises, and sharks. Usually seen in "schools", hence the plural here. This would be in line with Gen 1:21.

LEVIATHAN: Ref an ancient mythological 7-headed sea monster, or dragon; used of Babylon and Egypt (Job 3:8; 41:1; Psa 74:14; 104:26; Isa 27:1): see Lesson, Leviathan.

WHICH YOU FORMED TO FROLIC THERE: In Job 41:5, God asks Job, "Will you play with him (Leviathan) as with a bird...?", reflecting Psa 104:26, which sb read, "There go the ships, and Leviathan whom you (ie Yahweh) formed to play with", or alternatively, "There go the ships, and Leviathan whom you formed to play in it (ie, the sea)". Leviathan in Psa 104:26 has often been thought to be some creature such as the whale, but it may be a poetic ref to a mythical monster-deity.

Psa 104:27

(NT) Cited by Christ in Mat 24:45 and Luk 12:42: The faithful and wise servant, who has been appointed ruler over the household of his Lord is doing the work of God when he provides for the (New) Creation their food (both physical and spiritual?) day by day. (For the physical food, see Act 6:2-6; for the spiritual "food", see everywhere in the NT!)

Psa 104:29

FACE (of God): In Psalms, always ref God's presence in ark/tabernacle/temple: see VL, Pss, God's face.

Psa 104:30

God's all-pervading Spirit-power, sustaining everything in His creation: Gen 2:7; Job 12:10; 33:4; 34:14; 37:10; Psa 33:6; 139:7; Ecc 12:7. But esp in the New Creation.

THEY ARE CREATED: (NT) Or "re-created"! This is the New Creation of men and women new-born by faith in Christ (Psa 102:18, refs; Joh 20:22).

YOU RENEW THE FACE OF THE EARTH: A Paradise restored, thus harmonizing with the interpretation above. However, "earth" is not eretz, but adamah: the ground, or the dust. The culminating work of the (New) Creation is the renewal of the "face of adam -- man"! And so this harmonizes with the next v even more so....

Psa 104:31

Not until the earth and its human inhabitants are redeemed can their Maker really rejoice in what He has made. Only then will it all be "very good" in anything approaching the sense originally intended (Gen 1:31). Here (as in Psa 145:9,10; 102:22; Eph 2:10), His "works" means redeemed men and women. Note the Covenant Name here, inappropriate to the natural creation, and positively demanding the kind of ref now being suggested. "Endure forever" is surely decisive.

Psa 104:32

Earthquake and volcanic eruption play their parts in the massive cataclysm which must follow its course before the New Creation can be fully established (cp Zec 14:4; Mat 24:7,8 -- where "the beginning of sorrows" means the beginning of labor leading up to the birth).

Psa 104:33

Death as an unconscious state: Psa 104:33; 146:3,4; Isa 38:18; Ecc 9:5,6,10. Yet there is deliverance from Sheol for some: Psa 16:10; 17:15; 49:15; 73:24; Isa 26:19; Dan 12:1-3. The OT does not have the word "resurrection", but the principle is plainly taught throughout.

Psa 104:35

Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth, for they are the only blot on an otherwise perfect Creation. Glory to God will be realized in its fullness only when all sin in eradicated (Mic 7:19; cp Psa 37:10-20,38; 145:20; Mal 4:1,2; Mat 3:12; 13:40).

PRAISE THE LORD: Actually belongs to the beginning of Psa 105 (see v 1 note); but indeed it is certainly fitting here.

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