Psalm 104sn Psalm 104. The psalmist praises God as the ruler of the world who sustains all life.
1 Praise the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are magnificent.tn Heb “very great.”
You are robed in splendor and majesty.
2 He covers himself with light as if it were a garment.
He stretches out the skies like a tent curtain,
3 and lays the beams of the upper rooms of his palace on the rain clouds.tn Heb “one who lays the beams on water [in] his upper rooms.” The “water” mentioned here corresponds to the “waters above” mentioned in Gen 1:7. For a discussion of the picture envisioned by the psalmist, see L. I. J. Stadelmann, The Hebrew Conception of the World, 44-45.
He makes the clouds his chariot,
and travels along on the wings of the wind.sn Verse 3 may depict the Lord riding a cherub, which is in turn propelled by the wind current. Another option is that the wind is personified as a cherub. See Ps 18:10 and the discussion of ancient Near Eastern parallels to the imagery in M. Weinfeld, “‘Rider of the Clouds’ and ‘Gatherer of the Clouds’,” JANESCU 5 (1973): 422-24.
4 He makes the winds his messengers,
and the flaming fire his attendant.tc Heb “and his attendants a flaming fire.” The lack of agreement between the singular “fire” and plural “attendants” has prompted various emendations. Some read “fire and flame.” The present translation assumes an emendation to “his attendant” (יו in the Hebrew text being virtually dittographic).sn In Ugaritic mythology Yam’s messengers appear as flaming fire before the assembly of the gods. See G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 42.
5 He established the earth on its foundations;
it will never be upended.
6 The watery deep covered ittc Heb “you covered it.” The masculine suffix is problematic if the grammatically feminine noun “earth” is the antecedent. For this reason some emend the form to a feminine verb with feminine suffix, כִּסַּתָּה (kisattah, “[the watery deep] covered it [i.e., the earth]”), a reading assumed by the present translation. like a garment;
the waters reachedtn Heb “stood.” above the mountains.sn Verse 6 refers to the condition described in Gen 1:2 (note the use of the Hebrew term תְּהוֹם [tÿhom, “watery deep”] in both texts).
7 Your shout made the waters retreat;
at the sound of your thunderous voice they hurried off –
8 as the mountains rose up,
and the valleys went down –
to the place you appointed for them.tn Heb “from your shout they fled, from the sound of your thunder they hurried off.”sn Verses 7-8 poetically depict Gen 1:9-10.
9 You set up a boundary for them that they could not cross,
so that they would not cover the earth again.tn Heb “a boundary you set up, they will not cross, they will not return to cover the earth.”
10 He turns springs into streams;tn Heb “[the] one who sends springs into streams.” Another option is to translate, “he sends streams [i.e., streams that originate from springs] into the valleys” (cf. NIV).
they flow between the mountains.
11 They provide water for all the animals in the field;
the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
12 The birds of the sky live beside them;
they chirp among the bushes.tn Heb “among the thick foliage they give a sound.”
13 He waters the mountains from the upper rooms of his palace;tn Heb “from his upper rooms.”
the earth is full of the fruit you cause to grow.tn Heb “from the fruit of your works the earth is full.” The translation assumes that “fruit” is literal here. If “fruit” is understood more abstractly as “product; result,” then one could translate, “the earth flourishes as a result of your deeds” (cf. NIV, NRSV, REB).
14 He provides grasstn Heb “causes the grass to sprout up.” for the cattle,
and crops for people to cultivate,tn Heb “for the service of man” (see Gen 2:5).
so they can produce food from the ground,tn Heb “to cause food to come out from the earth.”
15 as well as wine that makes people feel so good,tn Heb “and wine [that] makes the heart of man happy.”
and so they can have oil to make their faces shine,tn Heb “to make [the] face shine from oil.” The Hebrew verb צָהַל (tsahal, “to shine”) occurs only here in the OT. It appears to be an alternate form of צָהַר (tsahar), a derivative from צָהָרִים (tsaharim, “noon”).
as well as food that sustains people’s lives.tn Heb “and food [that] sustains the heart of man.”
16 The trees of the Lordsn The trees of the Lord are the cedars of Lebanon (see the next line), which are viewed as special because of their great size and grandeur. The Lebanon forest was viewed elsewhere in the OT as the “garden of God” (see Ezek 31:8). receive all the rain they need,tn Heb “are satisfied,” which means here that they receive abundant rain (see v. 13).
the cedars of Lebanon which he planted,
17 where the birds make nests,
near the evergreens in which the herons live.tn Heb “[the] heron [in the] evergreens [is] its home.”sn The cedars and evergreens of the Lebanon forest are frequently associated (see, for example, 2 Chr 2:8; Isa 14:8; 37:24; Ezek 31:8).
18 The wild goats live in the high mountains;tn Heb “the high mountains [are] for the goats.”
the rock badgers find safety in the cliffs.
19 He made the moon to mark the months,tn Heb “he made [the] moon for appointed times.” The phrase “appointed times” probably refers to the months of the Hebrew lunar calendar.
and the sun sets according to a regular schedule.tn Heb more metaphorically, “knows its setting.”
20 You make it dark and night comes,tn Heb “you make darkness, so that it might be night.”
during which all the beasts of the forest prowl around.
21 The lions roar for prey,
seeking their food from God.sn The lions’ roaring is viewed as a request for food from God.
22 When the sun rises, they withdraw
and sleeptn Heb “lie down.” in their dens.
23 Men then go out to do their work,
and labor away until evening.tn Heb “man goes out to his work, and to his labor until evening.”
24 How many living things you have made, O Lord!tn Heb “How many [are] your works, O Lord.” In this case the Lord’s “works” are the creatures he has made, as the preceding and following contexts make clear.
You have exhibited great skill in making all of them;tn Heb “all of them with wisdom you have made.”
the earth is full of the living things you have made.
25 Over here is the deep, wide sea,tn Heb “this [is] the sea, great and broad of hands [i.e., “sides” or “shores”].”
which teems with innumerable swimming creatures,tn Heb “where [there are] swimming things, and without number.”
living things both small and large.
26 The ships travel there,
and over here swims the whaletn Heb “[and] this Leviathan, [which] you formed to play in it.” Elsewhere Leviathan is a multiheaded sea monster that symbolizes forces hostile to God (see Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1), but here it appears to be an actual marine creature created by God, probably some type of whale. you made to play in it.
27 All of your creaturestn Heb “All of them.” The pronoun “them” refers not just to the sea creatures mentioned in vv. 25-26, but to all living things (see v. 24). This has been specified in the translation as “all of your creatures” for clarity. wait for you
to provide them with food on a regular basis.tn Heb “to give their food in its time.”
28 You give food to them and they receive it;
you open your hand and they are filled with food.tn Heb “they are satisfied [with] good.”
29 When you ignore them, they panic.tn Heb “you hide your face, they are terrified.”
When you take away their life’s breath, they die
and return to dust.
30 When you send your life-giving breath, they are created,
and you replenish the surface of the ground.
31 May the splendor of the Lord endure!tn Heb “be forever.”
May the Lord find pleasure in the living things he has made!tn Or “rejoice in his works.”
32 He looks down on the earth and it shakes;
he touches the mountains and they start to smolder.
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I exist!tn Heb “in my duration.”
34 May my thoughtstn That is, the psalmist’s thoughts as expressed in his songs of praise. be pleasing to him!
I will rejoice in the Lord.
35 May sinners disappeartn Or “be destroyed.” from the earth,
and the wicked vanish!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
Praise the Lord!
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