Psalm 104 is a hymn of praise to Yahweh. It is a celebration of His power and wisdom as displayed in the wonder and variety of His creation. It praises the majesty of God the Creator.
The Psalm is divided into eight parts . Verses 1 to 4: Organization of the Heavens, Verses 5 to 9: Formation of the Earth, Verses 10 to 13: Provision of Water, Verses 14 to 18: Food for Man and Beast, Verses 19 to 23: Organization of Time, Verses 24 to 26: The Sea, Verses 27 to 30: Control of life, and Verses 31 to 35: Joy in God's Wonderous Works.
Of the Psalms presented in the Holy Bible, there are three which do not really fit the mold of Psalm 104; they are Psalms 8, 89 and 148. In these Psalms, God is both a Creator and a King with a Royal Council. The focus of this paper, however, is understanding Psalm 104, plus other Psalms, that refer to the Creation and the importance of it in the lives of God's chosen people.
Organization of the Heavens (Verses 1 to 4)
1 Bless the Lord,0 my soul.
0 Lord my God, you are very great.
You are clothed with honour and majesty,
2 wrapped in light as with a garment.
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
3 you set the beams of your chambers on the waters, you make the clouds your chariot,
you ride on the wings of the wind,
4 you make the winds your messengers,
fire and flame your ministers.
God pitches the sky like "a tent" and builds His palace on the unstable surface of the heavenly ocean. He creates clouds, wind and fire to serve Him. Psalm 19 also deals, in part, with the organization of the heavens. These Psalms describes the glory of His creative power in nature. All resources are at His command.
Formation of the Earth
(Verses 5 to 9)
5 You set the earth on its
so that it shall never be shaken.
6 You cover it with the deep as with a garment;
the waters stood above the mountains.
7 At your rebuke they flee;
at the sound of your thunder they take to flight.
8 They rose up to the mountains , ran down to the valleys
to the place that you appointed for them.
9 You set a boundary that they may not pass,
so that they might not again
cover the earth.
The Earth is firmly anchored in the ocean. It covered the land until God commanded it to retreat; revealing the mountains and the valleys. The deep waters covering the earth will never happen again. The dry land brought into being demonstrates God's mastery over the chaotic waters.
Provision of Water
(Verses 10 to 13)
10 You make the springs gush forth in the valleys ;
they flow between the hills,
11 giving drink to every wild animal; the wild asses quench their thirst .
12 By the streams the birds of the air have their habitation;
they sing among the branches .
13 From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
The underground ocean surges up in the form of springs. This means the furnishing of the means of life for plants, animals and man. The heavenly ocean is released as rain. Psalm 24 and Psalm 93 also deal with God's victories over the waters. The tumult of chaotic waters represent forces by which life might be engulfed if God did not exercise his sovereignty. God is mightier than chaos and his order stands fast.
Food for Man or Beast
(Verses 14 to 18)
14 You cause the grass to grow for the cattle,
and plants for people to use,
to bring forth food from the earth,
15 and wine to gladden the human heart,
oil to make the face shine,
and bread to strengthen the human heart.
16 The trees of the lord are watered abundantly,
the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
17 In them the birds build their nests;
the stork has its home in the firtrees.
18 The high mountains are for the wild goats;
the rocks are the refuge for the coneys.
The winter rains effect the growth of winter grass, providing fodder for the animals year round. There is grain from the earth, as well as wine and oil throughout the agricultural year. There was vegetation both wild and cultivated. This shows God's continuing care of all the creatures He has created.
Organization of Time
(Verses 19 to 23)
19 You have made the moon to mark the seasons;
the sun knows its time for setting.
20 You make darkness, and it is night,
when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.
21 The young lions roar for their prey,
seeking their food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they withdraw and lie down in their dens.
23 People go out to their work
and to their labor until the evening.
There is the creation of the moon and the sun. Now food can be acquired both day( man) and night (animals). We see God's careful demarcation of the limits of months and days and the regulating of the seasons. Darkness was seen as a real thing created by God.
(Verses 24 to 26)
24 0 Lord, how manifold are your works!
In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures .
25 Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships, and Leviathan that you formed to sporn in it.
God tamed the primeval ocean, allowing it to become the home for his creatures and a highway for man's commerce. We now have a mighty sea teeming with life.
Control of Life
(Verses 27 to 30)
27 These all look to you to give them their food in due season; 28 when you give to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. 30 When you send forth your spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the ground.
When God withdraws Himself from humanity we all suffer. In reality, we depend on God for our existence. It is His Holy Spirit which is bestowed upon us. It sustains us in our daily life. This is affirmed through Psalm 95 which praises God as both our Creator and Saviour. In every way God is in control. He created the world and therefore the created world is subject to Him, its Creator. Simply, we owe our collective and individual existence to God and must accept His absolute authority.
Joy in God's Wonderous Works
(Verses 31 to 35)
31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works-
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more. Bless the Lord, 0 my soul.
Praise the Lord!
There is joy in contemplating God's wonderous works. Those who rebel against "the One" who created such perfection of order forfeit there right to live. We must bless the Lord for His creation. Psalm 33 gives praise to God's supreme power over the nations . He is now seen as not only the the Creator, but the Lord of history who rules over the destiny of nations.
Heavenly Governance - With God as King and Man as Vice-Regent
It was common in the Near East to view a supreme being as a King with a Council of equally supreme advisors. There is little doubt that the Hebrews took, in part, the traditional Babylonian view of a Heavenly Royal Court. However, the Hebrews saw the councilor's Power and Heavenly governance, as being less than God's and more than Man's; something in between. In Psalm 8, we read that God is indeed the Divine Majesty with a Council; who are a little less than Gods. Nonetheless, the Psalm is celebrating the Majesty of God with Man in the honoured position of vice-regent. It sets a picture of nature and of man praising God within the Divine framework. Man is given both dignity and dominion over all things as a gracious gift by the Creator.
In Psalm 89, there is Praise for God by His Heavenly Court for His creation. In Psalm 148, the Heavenly Council summons all of Creation to form a Heavenly Choir to manifest that Praise. It is their exaltation for the God who created them by His Word and gave them Permanence. In Psalm 104 the great Alleluia is proclaimed. All things in both Heaven and Earth are called upon to praise the one whose Glory rules the world.
This Post was originally presented as a Paper for the Undergraduate Religious Studies Course Introduction to Old Testament Literature - The Rev. Dr. R. Rhys Williams - Professor, College of Cape Breton and published on November 23rd, 1992.
Revised publication on July 13th, 2023.
Aids to Research:
Concordance: Crudens Complete Concordance Concordance of the Bible Youngs Analytical Concordance Nelsons Complete Concordance
Commentary: The New Jerome Bible Commentary Peake' s Commentary on the Bible
The Interpreter' s one-volume Commentary on the Bible The New Oxford Annotated Bible
© Dr. Charles Warner 2023