Psalm ciii. (Benedic anima.)
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Himself. Complutensian Septuagint adds, “a psalm on the creation,” (Haydock) as this is the subject; but there is no title in the original. (Berthier) The psalm contains “a divine and natural philosophy,” (Eusebius) respecting the creation and providence. Plato has written something similar in his Timæus, (Calmet) though this comparison is indecent. (Berthier) — The imitation is no disparagement, however, to this divine word, and we may surely notice the concord between the inspired and profane writers. (Haydock) — This psalm seems to be a continuation of the preceding one. (Calmet) — Great. Literally, “magnified,” in the same sense as we say, hallowed be thy name, [Matthew vi. 9.] praying that God may be honoured by all his creatures; (Haydock) though He cannot increase in holiness, &c. (St. Augustine) — We become acquainted with his greatness, by considering his works. (Calmet) — Praise. Literally, “confession,” (Haydock) Hebrew, “glory.” (Calmet) — Thou art entitled to all praise. (Worthington)
Ver. 2. Light. In this manner he always appeared, 1 Timothy vi. 16., and Exodus iii. 2. (Calmet) — Christ only once assumed such a glorious form at this transfiguration, because he came to instruct our mind and heart. (Berthier) — Stretchest. Hebrew and Septuagint have the verbs in the third person, till ver. 6., as the Vulgate has here extendens. But St. Jerome and others agree with us, though St. Paul quotes according to the Hebrew, ver. 4. (Haydock) — Pavilion. The idea of the heavens resting like a tent upon the earth was very prevalent, Job ix. 8., and Isaias xl. 22.
Ver. 3. Water. The Fathers are not agreed about the nature or situation of these waters. Some take them to be angels. (St. Jerome; Genesis i. 7.) — Others suppose that the waters in the clouds, (Calmet) or the crystalline substance in the region of the stars are designated. (Worthington) — These waters are represented as the roof of God’s palace. (Eusebius) — Winds. With surprising velocity, his providence being every where. (Theodoret) — The psalmist accommodates himself to our capacity, to shew that God does all with the utmost ease. (Worthington)
Ver. 4. Fire. The elements execute his will, (Calmet) or rather, as the apostle, and Chaldean, &c., intimate, the angels do this (Berthier) with zeal and activity, (Hebrews i. 7.; Haydock) and ease. (Worthington) — Some would attribute to the angels some sort of light bodies, and Grotius attempted to revive this opinion, which never could prevail over the contrary one, which is universally received. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. Ever. The established order shall subsist, though the earth may move, Psalm ci. 27. (Berthier) — It is fixed by its own gravity in the centre. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. The deep. Hebrew, “thou hast covered it with the abyss.” This proves that there was no pre-existent matter, otherwise God would not have begun with plunging his work in the abyss, and in confusion. But he chose to bring this beautiful world out of a state of disorder in the space of six days, as Moses and the psalmist relate. (Berthier) — At first, all was created, covered with the waters, Genesis i.
Ver. 7. Fear. Hebrew, “retire precipitately” to their beds, at thy command, (Haydock) on the third day. (Calmet) — Some think that a storm or the deluge are here described, (St. Chrysostom) which is less probable. (Berthier) (Calmet) — The waters would naturally cover the earth; but are confined to their proper channels by God. (Worthington)
Ver. 8, 9. The….descend. This should be within a parenthesis, (Berthier) as the sequel speaks of the waters. (Haydock) — Earth. This seemed miraculous to those who supposed that the earth was flat. (St. Ambrose; Hex. iii. 22.) (Job vii. 12., and Amos v. 8.) (Calmet) — Providence points out the place for every thing. (Haydock) —
Jussit et extendi campos, &c. (Ovid, Met. i.)
— God derogated from this law, which he had appointed for the waters, when he brought them again to overwhelm the guilty earth. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Pass, to supply the wants of all creatures. Springs and rain afford the necessary moisture.
Ver. 11. Except, waiting for one another, as all cannot drink at the fountains at the same time. The Chaldean has the same idea, though the Hebrew is explained, “shall break” (Houbigant, “shall satisfy”) their thirst. Berthier)
Ver. 13. Rooms, with rain, ver. 3. (Calmet) — Earth, or its inhabitants. (Tirinus)
Ver. 14. Service. Cattle, or beasts of burden, are thus fed for man’s service, though he may also eat legumes, &c. (Calmet) — Bring. God gives the increase, 1 Corinthians iii. 7. (Haydock)
Ver. 15. Oil. This was an article of food, (Berthier) and deeded almost as requisite for anointing the body, as bread and wine to support nature. (Pliny, [Natural History?] xiv. 22.) Hence it was prohibited in days of fasting. (Calmet) — These three things are put for all sorts of food. (Worthington)
Ver. 16. Field. Hebrew, “of Jehova.” Houbigant would substitute ssodi, “field,” (Haydock) as this name of God is never used to denote “high” trees, &c. (Berthier) — God provides for the wants of all the creation, even of those things which seem less necessary to us. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Sparrows, or “birds” (Psalm ci. 8.; Haydock) in general. (Berthier) — Highest; or, literally, “the tribe of the heron is their leader,” (Haydock) first making their nests. Septuagint seem to have read better than the present Hebrew, “the stork, the fir-trees are its house.” (Berthier)
Ver. 18. Irchins. St. Augustine reads also, “hares.” These desert places are not useless. (Calmet)
Ver. 19. Seasons and festivals, which it points out: mohadim. (Haydock) — During the night wild beasts seek their prey, as men and cattle may labour in the day-time. The sun, &c., were made for man’s use, (Calmet) and not to be adored. (Eusebius) — These bodies move with the same regularity as if they had intelligence. (Heracleot.)
Ver. 21. God, like all other creatures, Psalm cxliv. 15., and cxlvi. 9. (Calmet)
Ver. 24. Riches. Literally, “possession.” (Haydock) — Hebrew, “The fulness of the earth is thy possession.” Septuagint and ancient psalters, “creature;” ktiseos. The other interpreters read kteseos, (Calmet) which the Vulgate adopts. (Haydock) — The world derided Jesus Christ, the wisdom of God, and Creator of all. (St. Augustine)
Ver. 25. Arms. Man acts thus to denote something very extensive. (Haydock) — The sea is frequently put for the same purpose, Job xi. 9., and Lamentations ii. 13. Arms is omitted in the Septuagint and the ancient psalters. — Creeping. Fishes, (Genesis i. 20.; Calmet) and all animals without feet (Worthington) in the waters. (Haydock) — Nothing multiplies so fast as fishes. (Aristotle, Anim. ix. 17.) (Worthington)
Ver. 26. Go. The sea, which seems to be placed as a barrier, tends, by means of navigation, to the general convenience of nations. (Calmet) — Dragon. Leviathan, a huge fish, (Job xl. 20.; Worthington) which Bochart takes to be the crocodile; though that monster is found rather in rivers. (Berthier) — It designates here all whales, and other great fishes which play in the sea without experiencing any fear like mortals. Some translate “to play with it,” (Calmet) as auto cannot agree with Thalassa. (Berthier) — The prodigious size of these fishes costs God nothing. (Calmet) — The whole creation is but a plaything for him, ludens in orbe terrarum, Proverbs viii. 31. (Haydock) — Some Jews impiously pretend that God plays three hours a day with the leviathan, and that he only created two; one of which he killed to make a feast for the elect, and the other causes the tides, by turning itself, &c. See 4 Esdras, written at least in the second century. (St. Jerome) (Muis) (Calmet) — Though this monster be too strong for man, it cannot defend itself out of water; (Worthington) and even in its own element man gains the victory by his skill. (Haydock)
Ver. 28. All, is not in Hebrew [nor] Septuagint. (Calmet) But the sense is the same. (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Thy. Chaldean adds, “holy;” and the Fathers explain it of a spiritual renovation, or of the resurrection of the body. (Berthier) — Animals are still preserved by Providence. (Eusebius) (Calmet)
Ver. 31. Works. Seeing that they are good, Genesis i. 31. May all continue to answer the end for which they were created. (Calmet)
Ver. 32. Smoke. Exodus xix. 18., and xx. 18. God is terrible as well as clement. (Calmet)
Ver. 35. No more. So St. Paul pronounced sentence on those who did not love the Lord Jesus, (1 Corinthians xvi. 22.) yet without any animosity. (Berthier) — The saints thus pray for the conversion of all, (St. Athanasius) or express their approbation of God’s sentence against the damned. (Worthington)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
God is to be praised for his mighty works, and wonderful providence.
1 For David himself.
Bless the Lord, O my soul: O Lord my God, thou art exceedingly great.
Thou hast put on praise and beauty: 2 and art clothed with light as with a garment.
Who stretchest out the heaven like a pavilion: 3 who coverest the higher rooms thereof with water.
Who makest the clouds thy chariot: who walkest upon the wings of the winds.
4 *Who makest thy angels spirits: and thy ministers a burning fire.
5 Who hast founded the earth upon its own bases: it shall not be moved for ever and ever.
6 The deep, like a garment, is its clothing: above the mountains shall the waters stand.
7 At thy rebuke they shall flee: at the voice of thy thunder they shall fear.
8 The mountains ascend, and the plains descend into the place which thou hast founded for them.
9 Thou hast set a bound which they shall not pass over: neither shall they return to cover the earth.
10 Thou sendest forth springs in the vales: between the midst of the hills the waters shall pass.
11 All the beasts of the field shall drink: the wild asses shall expect in their thirst.
12 Over them the birds of the air shall dwell: from the midst of the rocks they shall give forth their voices.
13 Thou waterest the hills from thy upper rooms: the earth shall be filled with the fruit of thy works:
14 Bringing forth grass for cattle, and herb for the service of men.
That thou mayst bring bread out of the earth: 15 and that wine may cheer the heart of man.
That he may make the face cheerful with oil: and that bread may strengthen man’s heart.
16 The trees of the field shall be filled, and the cedars of Libanus which he hath planted: 17 there the sparrows shall make their nests.
The highest of them is the house of the heron. 18 The high hills are a refuge for the harts, the rock for the irchins.
19 He hath made the moon for seasons: the sun knoweth his going down.
20 Thou hast appointed darkness, and it is night: in it shall all the beasts of the woods go about.
21 The young lions roaring after their prey, and seeking their meat from God.
22 The sun ariseth, and they are gathered together: and they shall lie down in their dens.
23 Man shall go forth to his work, and to his labour until the evening.
24 How great are thy works, O Lord! thou hast made all things in wisdom; the earth is filled with thy riches.
25 So is this great sea, which stretcheth wide its arms: there are creeping things without number.
Creatures little and great. 26 There the ships shall go.
This sea-dragon which thou hast formed to play therein. 27 All expect of thee that thou give them food in season.
28 What thou givest to them they shall gather up: when thou openest thy hand, they shall all be filled with good.
29 But if thou turnest away thy face, they shall be troubled: thou shalt take away their breath, and they shall fail, and shall return to their dust.
30 Thou shalt send forth thy spirit, and they shall be created: and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
31 May the glory of the Lord endure for ever: the Lord shall rejoice in his works.
32 He looketh upon the earth, and maketh it tremble: he toucheth 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 my being.
34 Let my speech be acceptable to him: but I will take delight in the Lord.
35 Let sinners be consumed out of the earth, and the unjust, so that they be no more: O my soul, bless thou the Lord.
4: Hebrews i. 7.
33: Psalm cxlv. 2.