PSALM 104#A hymn praising God who easily and skillfully made rampaging waters and primordial night into a world vibrant with life. The psalmist describes God’s splendor in the heavens (Ps 104:1–4), how the chaotic waters were tamed to fertilize and feed the world (Ps 104:5–18), and how primordial night was made into a gentle time of refreshment (Ps 104:19–23). The picture is like Gn 1:1–2: a dark and watery chaos is made dry and lighted so that creatures might live. The psalmist reacts to the beauty of creation with awe (Ps 104:24–34). May sin not deface God’s work (Ps 104:35)!
Praise of God the Creator
1Bless the Lord, my soul!
Lord, my God, you are great indeed!
You are clothed with majesty and splendor,
2robed in light as with a cloak.
You spread out the heavens like a tent;#a. [104:2] Prv 8:27–28; Jb 9:8; Is 40:22; Gn 1:6–7; Am 9:6.
3setting the beams of your chambers upon the waters.#Your chambers upon the waters: God’s heavenly dwelling above the upper waters of the sky, cf. Gn 1:6–7; Ps 29:10.
You make the clouds your chariot;
traveling on the wings of the wind.
4You make the winds your messengers;
flaming fire, your ministers.#b. [104:4] Heb 1:7.
5#God places the gigantic disk of the earth securely on its foundation and then, as a warrior, chases away the enveloping waters and confines them under, above, and around the earth.You fixed the earth on its foundation,
so it can never be shaken.
6The deeps covered it like a garment;
above the mountains stood the waters.
7At your rebuke they took flight;
at the sound of your thunder they fled.#c. [104:7] Ps 29:3.
8They rushed up the mountains, down the valleys
to the place you had fixed for them.
9You set a limit they cannot pass;
never again will they cover the earth.#d. [104:9] Jer 5:22; Gn 9:11–15.
10You made springs flow in wadies
that wind among the mountains.
11They give drink to every beast of the field;#e. [104:11–14] Ps 147:8–9.
here wild asses quench their thirst.
12Beside them the birds of heaven nest;
among the branches they sing.
13You water the mountains from your chambers;
from the fruit of your labor the earth abounds.
14You make the grass grow for the cattle
and plants for people’s work
to bring forth food from the earth,
15wine to gladden their hearts,
oil to make their faces shine,
and bread to sustain the human heart.
16#Even the exotic flora and fauna of the high mountains of the Lebanon range receive adequate water.The trees of the Lord drink their fill,
the cedars of Lebanon, which you planted.
17There the birds build their nests;
the stork in the junipers, its home.#f. [104:17] Ez 31:6.
18The high mountains are for wild goats;
the rocky cliffs, a refuge for badgers.
19You made the moon to mark the seasons,#g. [104:19] Sir 43:6.
the sun that knows the hour of its setting.
20You bring darkness and night falls,
then all the animals of the forest wander about.
21Young lions roar for prey;
they seek their food from God.#h. [104:21] Jb 38:39.
22When the sun rises, they steal away
and settle down in their dens.
23People go out to their work,
to their labor till evening falls.
24How varied are your works, Lord!
In wisdom you have made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.#i. [104:24] Ps 92:6; Sir 39:16.
25There is the sea, great and wide!
It teems with countless beings,
living things both large and small.#j. [104:25] Sir 43:26.
26There ships ply their course
and Leviathan,#Leviathan: a sea monster symbolizing primeval chaos, cf. Ps 74:14; Is 27:1; Jb 40:25. God does not destroy chaos but makes it part of the created order. whom you formed to play with.#k. [104:26] Jb 3:8; 40:25, 29.
27All of these look to you
to give them food in due time.#l. [104:27] Ps 136:25; 145:15–16.
28When you give it to them, they gather;
when you open your hand, they are well filled.
29#On one level, the spirit (or wind) of God is the fall and winter rains that provide food for all creatures. On another, it is the breath (or spirit) of God that makes beings live.When you hide your face, they panic.
Take away their breath, they perish
and return to the dust.#m. [104:29] Ps 90:3; Jb 34:14–15; Eccl 3:20.
30Send forth your spirit, they are created
and you renew the face of the earth.
31May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
may the Lord be glad in his works!
32Who looks at the earth and it trembles,
touches the mountains and they smoke!#n. [104:32] Ps 144:5.
33I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live.#o. [104:33] Ps 146:2.
34May my meditation be pleasing to him;
I will rejoice in the Lord.
35May sinners vanish from the earth,
and the wicked be no more.
Bless the Lord, my soul! Hallelujah!#Hallelujah: a frequent word in the last third of the Psalter. The word combines the plural imperative of praise (hallelu) with an abbreviated form of the divine name Yah(weh).