Psalms 104 Summary - The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This glorious Psalm is conspicuous alike for its poetic beauty and for its religious significance. It is a companion piece to Psalms 103, and was probably written by the same poet. Both of them begin and end with the same call to adoring praise, Bless Jehovah, O my soul. In Psalms 103 that call is based upon the consideration of God’s mercy exhibited in His recent deliverance of Israel, in Psalms 104 upon the contemplation of His power, wisdom, and goodness manifested in the creation and maintenance of the world. History and Nature render their concurrent testimony.
The author of this Psalm has been called “the Wordsworth of the ancients, penetrated with a love for nature, and gifted with the insight that springs from love” (Aglen). Undoubtedly he was an enthusiastic lover of Nature, but it was not for its own sake merely that he loved it. It was to him “a book which heavenly truth imparts.”
And common face of nature spake to him
For him the invisible attributes of God. His everlasting power and divinity, were daily rendered visible to human reason in the works of creation (Rom 1:20).
The general arrangement of the poem is suggested by the story of creation in Genesis 1, but the treatment of the subject is free and original. Often we are reminded of the creation-pictures in Job 38-41, with which the author must have been familiar. Sometimes he draws a picture of the process of creation, but for the most part it is the present order and continuous maintenance of the universe by the beneficent will of the Creator which kindles his devout enthusiasm. God did not make the world and leave it to itself. It depends absolutely upon His will for the continuance of its existence. It is He who “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Act 17:25). And at the end the poet looks forward to the banishment of evil, and the restoration of the harmony of creation, “that God may be all in all.”
The following analysis may help to indicate the plan of the Psalm.
Creation is a revelation of the incomparable majesty of God. The elemental forces of Nature are an expression of His Almighty power (Psa 104:1-4). He formed the earth and separated the land and sea (Psa 104:5-9); and while the great mass of waters is thus confined in its appointed place, provision is made for the needs of beast and bird by spring and stream (Psa 104:10-12). He sends rain to fertilise the earth, and make it produce food for man and beast (Psa 104:13-15); He plants it with stately trees, which are the home of the birds, and peoples the mountains and rocks with His creatures (Psa 104:16-18). Moon and sun mark times and seasons, day and night (Psa 104:19-23). Then, after an exclamation of adoring wonder, the poet points to the sea with its manifold marvels (Psa 104:24-26), and emphasises the perpetual dependence of every living thing on God not only for sustenance but for life (Psa 104:27-30). Finally with a glance at the awful power of Him Who can destroy as easily as He can create, the Psalmist prays that His works may never cease to please Him and reveal His glory. As long as he lives he will sing praise to God. May all that disturbs the harmony of creation be banished from the earth (Psa 104:31-35).
The choice of this Psalm as a Proper Psalm for Whitsunday was probably due to the reference it contains to the spirit of God as the source of life; it has moreover a singular fitness for the great festival which in this country falls at the time when spring has once more “renewed the face of the ground.”
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The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges is a biblical commentary set published in parts by Cambridge University Press from 1882 onwards. Anglican bishop John Perowne was the general editor. The first section published was written by theologian Thomas Kelly Cheyne and covered the Book of Micah.
Perowne exercised limited editorial control over the writers of individual commentaries: his aim was "to leave each contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment".