George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 1

Psalm 19

1. Structure

The modernists say that here are two completely different psalms (vv. 1-6,7-14) stuck together by a compiler. If so, that compiler was a genius.

However, Bullinger shows how to discern unity here:
1- 4b.
The heavens. The word written there.

4c- 6.
“In them” the sun.
The Scriptures.

“In them” (Heb.) Thy Servant.

In these sections the Hebrew text falls easily into 8,6/8,6 lines, with a meditative couplet to round off the whole.

2. Theme

The psalm may be seen as a combination of Psalms 8 and 119. For other psalms about the glory of God in Nature, consider 29, 65, 93, 104, 107, and 148. The names of God are specially appropriate here: El (the Mighty God) in v. 1, and then Jehovah/Yahweh (the Covenant God) 7 times in vv. 7-14. Compare the switch from Elohim in Genesis 1 to Jehovah in Genesis 2 and 3. Whereas Psalm 8 paints the glory of the heavens as seen by night, this psalm does the same as seen by day.

The sky above man and the moral law within man (put there, of course, by God) both testify to the existence of Omnipotence. (By all means, if available, read L.G. Sargent’s article in the May 1923 Christadelphian: “Out of Whom are All Things”.)

3. Messianic reference

The sun in the heavens is an easy figure of the message concerning Messiah in the Scriptures. In fact, two and one-half verses out of six emphasize this. All else that is mentioned in the world of Nature is Night-and-Day. Christ the Sun (2 Sam. 23:4; Mal. 4:1,2; Matt. 17:2; Acts 26:13; Rev. 1:16) gives Light to all his New Creation, but also comforting warmth to those who appreciate him, and the fierce heat of judgment to those who do not (see also Psa. 72:17; Isa. 60:1-3; 2 Thes. 1:7,8).
He is also the Servant of the Lord (vv. 11-13) who is kept from sin and shown to be upright and innocent, one whose words and meditation were wholly acceptable (as a worthy offering) in God’s sight.
In Rom. 10:18 Paul appears to be misusing his Scripture when applying “their sound (LXX) is gone out into all the earth” (apparently about the silent witness of the heavens) to the vocal message of the gospel taken everywhere by the Lord’s preachers. This use of Psalm 19:1-6 is Paul’s way of declaring that this emphasis on the celestial witness to the glory of God is to be read as a parable of the preaching of the gospel, a greater witness to that same glory.
John Thomas goes yet further: “This was not all that the prophecy [of v. 2] intended. How much more fully will it be accomplished when Christ and all the apostles, prophets, and saints, accepted and approved of him, shall have brought all nations into the blessedness of Abraham and his Seed” (Eureka, vol. 3, p. 679).
Their line is gone out through all the earth (v. 4) uses a word which means “boundary line” (Jer. 31:39; 1 Kings 7:23). Apparently Paul alludes to this phrase with reference to his preaching: “the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you (i.e. the Corinthian believers)” (2 Cor. 10:13,14; cp. Mark 16:15). The preaching of the gospel (and its hearty reception) was the means of marking out a boundary between the heritage of the Lord and the rest of the world (cp. the idea of Psa. 16:6). And, as that preaching proceeds, it breaks down all other existing boundaries — ethnic and national and political.
A tabernacle for the sun (v. 4). But the sun moves through the twelve signs of the Zodiac, which themselves were long ago appropriated as symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel (Whittaker, Bible Studies, pp. 129-133). So here, in type, is Messiah’s association with his nation. In Washington, D.C., there is a remarkable handwritten copy of the American Constitution, so closely and cleverly done, that, from a few paces’ distance, it presents a portrait of George Washington. Even so, whether seen in overview or in extreme detail, the Old Testament Scriptures likewise portray Christ.
A bridegroom coming out of his chamber (v. 5). Is this a symbolic anticipation of the resurrection of Mark 16:2 or the Second Coming of Malachi 4:2 (or both)? The new Day is preceded by a Morning Star (2 Pet. 1:19) and by a brightening dawn as prophecies are fulfilled. “Chamber” is the bridal canopy of protection, referred to in Isa. 4:5 (“defence” = covering) and Joel 2:16.
As a strong man to run a race. “The outset of his military career” (Eureka, vol. 3, p. 431; cp. Rev. 19 — where Christ is first the Bridegroom and then the military leader). Compare the allusion in Judges 5:31: “But let them that love thee be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might.”
His going forth (v. 6) has the same Hebrew word as in Micah 5:2, in relation to the Divine conception and birth of Christ.
Nothing hid from the heat thereof. Compare Hebrews 4:12,13, about the (personal) Word of God. Man may seek to hide from him as the Light (John 3:19; 9:41; 12:46,48), but he cannot escape the heat of his judgment.
Enlightening the eyes (v. 8). Paul quotes this in Ephesians 1:18 (see also Heb. 6:4; Psa. 13:3; 1 Sam. 14:29).
The judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether (v. 9). Applied in Revelation 16:7; 19:2 to both the Father and the Son.
Let them (i.e. presumptuous sins) not have dominion over me (v. 13) is quoted by Paul to define the new life in Christ: Romans 6:14 (vv. 1,15 there make clear reference to presumptuous sins).
Gold, and much precious stone (v. 10, LXX) is alluded to in Revelation 21:18,19.

4. The Septuagint

In the translation of Psalm 19, the LXX surpasses itself. Here are some of the more interesting features:

Declare: s.w. Luke 1:1, intimating that the best declaration of the glory of God is in the story about Christ: cp. also John 1:14,18.

Firmament: s.w. Col. 2:5: “steadfastness” or “firmness” (RSV), referring to the faith of Christ’s ecclesia.

Sheweth: s.w. Luke 9:60: to publish the gospel.

There is no speech, and yet v. 4 has rhemata, spoken words.
In the sun he put his tabernacle. It is tempting to see John 1:14 as alluding to this.
From the end of the heaven. Matt. 24:31, and compare also Deut. 4:32.
The simple: s.w. 1 Cor. 13:11, five times: the child.
Pure. LXX: telauges, an unusual word; s.w. Mark 8:25: clearly.
True. LXX: alethinos, not (as one would expect) true in contrast with false or a lie, but real in contrast with type or shadow, i.e. the spiritual reality.

Altogether. LXX: having been made righteous in complete harmony; as in Acts 2:1,44: referring to the unity, in righteous faith, of the new ecclesia of the Lord.
Innocent. LXX: ‘I shall be cleansed’. This is obviously right.

5. Other details

The heavens, like the glory of God, are remote, beyond man’s grasp and control. The sun, if nearer, would burn him up, and, if more remote, would allow him to freeze.

Declare the glory of God. The heavens, which men have worshipped, themselves worship God. The form of the Hebrew verb implies: they do this intensively and without pause: cp. 71:15.
Day unto day uttereth speech. The word naba describes a spring gushing out water. The word for prophet (nabi) is probably derived from this — the spokesman who “pours forth” the word of God. See 78:2; 145:7; Prov. 15:2.

Night unto night sheweth knowledge. The knowledge of God’s existence and power but not of His character or purpose. Rom. 1:20 is not to be interpreted by this verse, but by Eph. 2:10.
There is no speech nor language....their voice is not heard. “Where” is in italics, and should be omitted. There is no voice. It is a silent witness, like that of the Scriptures themselves. (“They have no speech, there are no words; no sound is heard from them — yet their line goes out into all the earth”: NIV mg.; cp. RV.) Contrast the voice of the Lord in the storm (Psa. 29). Every word of Addison’s splendid paraphrase, in Hymn 79, deserves to be carefully pondered (Par. 6). Yet how often it is sung vigorously but without thought!
Their line. Isa. 28:10,13 (s.w.) suggests the idea of simple teaching. LXX, RSV, and other versions repeat the word voice. This involves the addition of one letter to the text, but preserves the parallelism with their words. (The word for “line” may also mean a harp string — so suggesting itself an audible sound, and thus maintaining the same parallelism.)

Is gone out through all the earth. This is the main emphasis: see vv. 5,6.
Rejoiceth. This Hebrew verb always means joy in the Lord. Some examples: Deut. 28:63; 30:9; Psa. 35:9; 40:16; 68:3; 70:4; 119:14; Isa. 35:1; 61:10; etc.

As a strong man. Note the close connection between the Hebrew for sun and Samson. “Strong man” is gibbor in Hebrew: a mighty man, a hero — especially in war. See 2 Sam. 23:8,9,16,17,22: David’s “mighty men”.
Nothing hid: s.w. verse 12.
It helps somewhat to tabulate these verses:


converting the soul

making wise the simple

rejoicing the heart

enlightening the eyes

enduring for ever

righteous altogether

It is surely permissible to combine any item of column 1 with any item of columns 2 and 3. Brief comments on some of these:

  1. Converting (mg. restoring) the soul: 1 Kings 17:21; Psa. 23:3. The sun’s restorative power. God’s truth refreshes, invigorates, sustains, comforts, and restores.
  2. Testimony. A common name for the Ten Commandments (Exod. 25:16,21,22).
  3. Making wise the simple. Matt. 11:25; 18:3,4; 1 Cor. 1:27; 2 Tim. 3:15.
  4. Pure. “Clear”, as in Song 6:10: “clear as the sun”.
  5. Enlightening the eyes. Read 1 Sam. 14:27 and bring vv. 8b and 10b together.
  6. Fear. Reverence, respect induced by the Law (Deut. 4:10); the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7; 14:27; 16:6).
  7. Enduring for ever....righteous altogether. The four items before these describe what the Word does for the believer. Then should these read: causing to endure for ever, making righteous altogether.
  8. Did Paul write Rom. 7 with his mind on this psalm? Consider:

Psalm 19

Romans 7

Law is perfect, sure, righteous, pure, clean.
Law is holy, just, good.

Who can understand his errors?
For that which I do, I allow not.

Rejoicing the heart.
I delight in the law.

Let them not have dominion over me.
Bringing me into captivity.

My redeemer.
Who shall deliver me?

Desired: s.w. Gen. 2:9; 3:6. The true tree of life.

Than gold. Compare Prov. 3:13-18. It is a present treasure; note v. 11b.

Honey. A symbol of wisdom, either (a) the wholesome divine wisdom: 1 Sam. 14:27,28; Psa. 119:103; Prov. 24:13; Ezek. 3:3; Luke 24:42; Rev. 10:9, or (b) the corrupting attractiveness of human wisdom: Lev. 2:11; Prov. 5:3; 25:16,27.
Keeping of them. In the absolute sense this was achieved only by Christ. So, probably, this means: holding close to Scripture: s.w. Exod. 15:26; Psa. 130:6; Isa. 21:11 (“Watchman”).

Warned should be “illuminated”!

Great reward, now, in a contented spirit, in the assurance of the forgiveness of sins, and in a multitude of other present blessings: 1 Tim. 4:8. But there is, of course, Col. 3:24 also: “the reward of the inheritance”!
Errors. The word means “wanderings”, like the planets (contrast the Sun: vv. 5,6). See Num. 15:22,28; Lev. 4:2.

Cleanse thou me. How? vv. 7-9,14.

Secret faults. Secrecy is one of the worst of human characteristics. The fewer secrets a man has, the better: John 3:19,20; Eph. 5:12. Contrast coming to the light of the Sun; as with the Sun, so with God’s Truth: nothing can be kept “secret” (v. 6, s.w.) from either! The worst of all sins are those their owner is not even aware of, because (necessarily) they are not repented of. The Word of God (Christ himself!) is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart, and therefore capable of revealing secret faults to those who so pray (Heb. 4:12,13).
Keep back, i.e. when the servant is wanting to go in the wrong direction: e.g. 1 Sam. 25:26,32-34,39. How is he kept back? (a) By the ways of God’s Providence and the angelic shaping of circumstances; (b) By the unperceived influence of one’s knowledge of Holy Scripture; (c) By quickened memory or other influence not recognized at the time.

Presumptuous sins. Sins of presumption, pride, or arrogance. Related to the “prophet” who speaks falsely in the name of the Lord (Deut. 18:18-22). Equivalent to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31-33; Mark 3:28,29). All the “proud” (s.w.) will be destroyed by the rising of the “Sun” of righteousness (Mal. 4:1 again).

Let them not have dominion. It is the work of a Redeemer (v. 14) to save the weak brother from a tyranny (Lev. 25:47-49). Paul picks up this idea in Rom. 6:14: “Sin (the figure of a great Master, or a Slave-owner) shall not have dominion over you” (cp. Heb. 2:15).

The great transgression. The Hebrew might read: the sin of the many.
Meditation. Higgaion (see 9:16; 92:3, mg.; Lam. 3:62). This Hebrew word is often associated with talk or soliloquy or prayer. The best way to meditate is to talk!

Acceptable. Ratzon = an acceptable sacrifice (i.e. for the sin of v. 13), without spot or blemish. How is this achieved? By having a worthy Redeemer and High Priest: s.w. Exod. 28:38. See also Psa. 107:22; 116:17; 141:2.

My strength (tsur) is really my Rock (as in 18:31), with allusion perhaps to the rock which was the foundation of the altar of burnt offering.

Redeemer. The One who ransoms and rescues out of overpowering trouble: s.w. Lev. 25:25; Gen. 48:16. Compare also Job 19:25; Psa. 78:35; Isa. 41:14; 59:20.

6. Hymn 79

The spacious firmament on high,
With all the blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavens — a shining frame —
Their great Original proclaim.
The unwearied sun, from day to day,
Doth his Creator’s power display,
And publishes to every land
The work of an Almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And, nightly, to the listening earth,
Repeats the story of her birth:
Whilst all the stars that round her burn.
And all the planets in their turn
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though in solemn silence all
Move round this dark terrestrial ball;
What though no real voice nor sound
Amidst their radiant orbs be found;
In reason’s ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
For ever singing, as they shine,
The hand that made us is Divine.

                Joseph Addison
Next Next Next