Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field, until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land!
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.Continue Reading Genesis 1-2 »Read Genesis 1-2 Take-Aways »Read John Calvin's Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »Read C.I. Scofield's Commentary »Read The Oxford Bible Commentary »Read The New Interpreters Bible Commentary »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »Read The New Jerome Biblical Commentary »
Leviticus 25: 23-24
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.Read Take-Aways »Read The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »
1 Chronicles 29: 11-12
Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all.Continue Reading 1 Chronicles 29: 11-12 »Read 1 Chronicles 29:11-12 Take-Aways »Read The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary »
Job 26: 7-14
He stretches out Zaphon over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing. He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not torn open by them. He covers the face of the full moon, and spreads over it his cloud. He has described a circle on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness.Continue Reading Job 26: 7-14 »Read Job 26:7-14 Take-Aways »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.Continue Reading Psalms 8 »Read Take-Aways »Read The New Interpreters Bible Commentary »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »
Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind.Continue Reading Psalms 104 »Read Psalm 104 Take-Aways »Read Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible »Read Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible »
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. And God said, ‘Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day. And God said, ‘Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. And God said, ‘Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.’ And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day. And God said, ‘Let the waters bring forth swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the dome of the sky.’ So God created the great sea monsters and every living creature that moves, of every kind, with which the waters swarm, and every winged bird of every kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.’ And there was evening and there was morning, the fifth day. And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.’ God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all their multitude. And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’ Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’ So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 1-2 Take-Aways
These very first chapters of the Bible have a great deal to say about God, humanity, and creation. To begin with the beginning, they introduce God as Creator. Before we know anything else about God, we know God is the one who creates. Humanity is shown to be the pinnacle of creation and God is solicitous of humanity’s needs by providing us with the benefits of creation. Humanity’s nobility and dominion over creation must be balanced, however, by our responsibility to the Creator and our purpose to “till and keep” (2:5, 15). John Calvin repeatedly underscores humanity’s need for moderation, and for our need to remember our identity as nobly created beings who are yet still subject and responsible to our Creator. Given the honor of being the pinnacle of creation, it would show ingratitude indeed for humanity to abuse God’s gift, especially when it is evident that God cares deeply for all of creation (cf. Lk 16:10-11, Matt. 6: 25-31). Eerdmans’ Commentary points out that humanity was given dominion over creation in the manner ancient kings were understood to have dominion over their subjects, so that they might rule for their subjects’ benefit. Lastly, these chapters place a special emphasis on rest by having the act of creation end with the Sabbath being sanctified and hallowed. Part of creation, then, is the act of not creating, the act of not acting, and of letting everything be at rest (cf. Lev. 25:4-7; 26: 34-35 where God provides a Sabbath for the land specifically). The pre-eminence of Sabbath in the creation story should prompt special reflection in a culture that values production and consumption.
John Calvin's Commentaries on the First Book of Moses Called Genesis
Arugment: And that declaration of David is most true, that the heavens, though without a tongue, are yet eloquent heralds of the glory of God, and that this most beautiful order of nature silently proclaims his admirable wisdom (Ps. 19:1). This is the more diligently to be observed, because so few pursue the right method of knowing God, while the greater part adhere to the creatures without any consideration of the Creator himself. For men are commonly subject to these two extremes; namely, that some, forgetful of God, apply the whole force of their mind to the consideration of nature; and others, overlooking the works of God, aspire with a foolish and insane curiosity to inquire into his Essence. Both labour in vain. To be so occupied in the investigation of the secrets of nature, as never to turn the eyes to its Author, is a most perverted study; and to enjoy everything in nature without acknowledging the Author of the benefit, is the basest ingratitude. Therefore, they who assume to be philosophers without Religion, and who, by speculating, so act as to remove God and all sense of piety far from them, will one day feel the force of the expressions of Paul, related by Luke, that God has never left himself without witness (Acts 14:17). For they shall not be permitted to escape with impunity because they have been deaf and insensible to testimonies so illustrious. And, in truth, it is the part of culpable ignorance, never to see God, who everywhere gives signs of his presence. But if mockers now escape by their cavils, hereafter their terrible destruction will bear witness that they were ignorant of God, only because they were willingly and maliciously blinded. As for those who proudly soar above the world to seek God in his unveiled essence, it is impossible but that at length they should entangle themselves in a multitude of absurd figments. For God – by other means invisible – (as we have already said) clothes himself, so to speak, with the image of the world, in which he would present himself to our contemplation. They who will not deign to behold him thus magnificently arrayed in the incomparable vesture of the heavens and the earth, afterwards suffer the just punishment of their proud contempt in their own ravings. Therefore, as soon as the name of God sounds in our ears, or the thought of him occurs to our minds, let us also clothe him with this most beautiful ornament; finally, let the world become our school if we desire rightly to know God (p59-60). Chapter 1: v. 11. Let the earth bring forth grass . . . What therefore we declare God to have done designedly, was indispensably necessary; that we may learn from the order of the creation itself, that God acts through the creatures, not as if he needed external help, but because it was his pleasure. When he says, ‘Let the earth bring forth the herb which may produce seed, the tree whose seed is in itself,’ he signifies not the same time, both were endued with the power of propagation in order that their several species might e perpetuated. Since, therefore, we daily see the earth pouring forth to us such riches from its lap, since we see the herbs producing seed, and this seed received and cherished in the bosom of the earth till it springs forth, and since we see trees shooting from other trees; all this flows from the same Word. If therefore we inquire, how it happens that the earth is fruitful, that the germ is produced from the seed, that fruits come to maturity, and their various kinds are annually reproduced; no other cause will be found, but that God has once spoken, that is, has issued his eternal decree; and that the earth, and all things proceeding from it, yield obedience to the command of God, which they always hear (p83). v. 14. Let them be for signs . . . Moses commemorates the unbounded goodness of God in causing the sun and moon not only to enlighten us, but to afford us various other advantages fro the daily use of life. It remains that we, purely enjoying the multiplied bounties of God, should learn not to profane such excellent gifts by our preposterous abuse of them. In the meantime, let us admire this wonderful Artificer, who has so beautifully arranged all things above and beneath, that they may respond to each other in most harmonious concert (p85). v. 26. And let them have dominion . . . Here he commemorates that part of dignity with which he decreed to honour man, namely, that he should have authority over all living creatures. He appointed man, it is true, lord of the world; but he expressly subjects the animals to him, because they, having an inclination or instinct of their own, seem to be less under authority from without. The use of the plural number intimates that this authority was not given to Adam only, but to all his posterity as well as to him. And hence we infer what was the end for which all things were created; namely, that none of the conveniences and necessaries of life might be wanting to men. In the very order of the creation the paternal solicitude of God for man is conspicuous, because he furnished the world with all things needful, and even with an immense profusion of wealth, before he formed man. Thus man was rich before he was born. But if God had such care for us before we existed, he will by no means leave us destitute of food and of other necessaries of life, now that we are placed in the world. Yet, that he often keeps his hand as if closed is to be imputed to our sins (p96). v. 28. And God blessed them . . . God could himself indeed have covered the earth with a multitude of men; but it was his will that we should proceed from one fountain, in order that our desire of mutual concord might be the greater, and that each might the more freely embrace the other as his own flesh. Besides, as men were created to occupy the earth, so we ought certainly to conclude that God has marked, as with a boundary, that space of earth which would suffice for the reception of men, and would prove a suitable abode for them. Any inequality which is contrary to this arrangement is nothing else than a corruption of nature which proceeds from sin. In the meantime, however, the benediction of God so prevails that the earth everywhere lies open that it may have its inhabitants, and that an immense multitude of men may find, in some part of the globe, their home (p97-98). Subdue it . . . He confirms what he had before said respecting dominion. Man had already been created with this condition, that he should subject the earth to himself; but now, at length, he is put in possession of his right, when he hears what has been given to him by the Lord: and this Moses expresses still more fully in the next verse, when he introduces God as granting to him the herbs and the fruits. For it is of great importance that we touch nothing of God’s bounty but what we know he has permitted us to do; since we cannot enjoy anything with a good conscience, except we receive it as from the hand of God. And therefore Paul teaches us that, in eating and drinking, we always sin, unless faith be present, (Rom. 14:23). Thus we are instructed to seek from God alone whatever is necessary for us, and in the very use of his gifts, we are to exercise ourselves in meditating on his goodness and paternal care. For the words of God are to this effect: ‘Behold, I have prepared food for thee before thou wast formed; acknowledge me, therefore, as they Father, who have so diligently provided for thee when thou wast not yet created. Moreover, my solicitude for thee has proceeded still further; it was they business to nurture the things provided for thee, but I have taken even this charge also upon myself. Wherefore, although thou art, in a sense, constituted the father of the earthly family, it is not for thee to be over-anxious about the sustenance of animals (p98-99). Chapter 2: v. 15 And the lord God took the man . . . Moses now adds, that the earth was given to man, with this condition, that he should occupy himself in its cultivation. Whence it follows, that men were created to employ themselves in some work, and not to lie down in inactivity and idleness. This labour, truly, was pleasant, and full of delight, entirely exempt from all trouble and weariness; since, however, God ordained that man should be exercised in the culture of the ground and condemned, in his person, all indolent repose. Wherefore, nothing is more contrary to the order of nature, than to consume life in eating, drinking, and sleeping, while in the meantime we propose nothing to ourselves to do. Moses adds, that the custody of the garden was given in charge to Adam, to show that we possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition, that being content with frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of it yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved (p125).
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
Chapter 1-2: v. 1-2:3 – 1:1-2:3 constitutes the prologue to Genesis, or, in Westermann’s phrase, a “festive overture” written in an elevated prose style that sometimes is almost poetic. It describes six days of divine activity culminating in the creation of man, followed by a seventh day in which God rested from his work. There are parallels between the first three days and the second three days: Day 1: Creation of light Day 2: Creation of sea and sky Day 3: Creation of dry land and plants Day 4: Creation of “lights,” that is, sun, moon, and stars Day 5: Creation of fish in the sea and birds in the sky Day 6: Creation of animals and man; plants given for food The schematization of these parallels is clear, as is the repetitive use of various formulae, such as “And it was so,” “God saw that it was good,” and “There was evening and there was morning,” which occur a precise number of times. Also evident in this account is the focus on those realms that have most impact on human existence: as the days elapse, the description of God’s activity becomes fuller, because the things made later in the week tend to be the most vital for man. The fullness of the description of the sixth day with the doubling of various formulae and especially the last comment, “God saw everything that . . . it was very good,” highlight the place of man in the divine program. The creation of mankind is the climax of creation. The goal of creation, however, is the seventh day of rest (2:1-3). The isolation of the seventh day, which has no other day coupled with it, shows that it is unique. The implication is patent: if God the Creator rested on the seventh day, so should his creature man made in the divine image. Thus this opening chapter is more than a prologue to the book, or even just an aetiology for the Sabbath; it gives the Sabbath a premier place in the divine blueprint for human life (p37-38). . . . Commentators and theologians have offered all sorts of explanations of the image of God as they have tried to identify those characteristics common to God and man. It is now known that it was widely held in the ancient orient that kings were the image of God, that is, that they were the god’s representative on earth and governed the earth on his behalf. This is clearly the idea here, with one great change, namely, that every human being, male and female, not just the king, is God’s representative who governs the rest of creation on God’s behalf. This is clearly the idea here, with one great change, namely, that every human being, male and female, not just the king, is God’s representative who governs the rest of creation on God’s behalf. This is not a mandate to exploit the earth but to manage the earth for the benefit of all creation, for kings in the ancient world were supposed to care for their subjects, not exploit them (cf. Psalm 72). And more particularly God is always portrayed as solicitous for the welfare of his creation, so obviously his representative, man, should be too. Though Genesis does not define what constitutes the image of God in man, it implies that it is those human characteristics that enable him to fulfill his duty of ruling the earth and filling it with his own kind. 2:1-3 Though the seventh day stands apart from the other six days, which go in pairs and are very formulaic, it is linked to the opening verses of the chapter by verbal echoes (e.g., 2:3 with 1:1), and thus rounds off the creation story neatly. But it does more. Nonbiblical creation stories often mention the gods resting after their work, but Genesis ties God’s rest to the seventh day. It presents a pattern of six days of work followed by a day of rest. While the seventh day is not called the Sabbath, perhaps to avoid confusion with the Babylonian shapattu day, it is both blessed and hallowed. In the Bible blessing is usually restricted to animate beings, and it is paradoxical that here a day of rest is blessed: inactivity is not usually seen as promoting fruitfulness and success. Yet this is what the blessing of the seventh day implies. Finally, the seventh day is hallowed, the first thing in Scripture to be called holy, that is, set apart for God and therefore sharing in his perfect life. In other words, the seventh day is not merely an appendage to the week of creation; rather it is its goal. The implication of its being blessed and hallowed is that it provides the energy for another week of fruitful labor in the service of God. Not that God needs to go on working in the way he did in creation, but man does. Though the text does not make the point explicitly, God’s working for six days and resting on the seventh is a pattern for man made in God’s image. Thus the whole creation story is a justification of Sabbath observance as well as a celebration of the power and wisdom of the Creator (p39). Chapter 2: vv. 10-15 – Eden may mean “well-watered place” (cf. 13:10; Tsumura 1989: 136) or delight.” With it four great rivers (the Tigris and Euphrates are well known, but the identity of Pishon and Gihon is uncertain) Eden was certainly blessed with abundant water, which is both essential for life and associated with the presence of God (cf. Ezek 47:1-12). Other features of Eden, it pure gold, onyx, and bdellium stones, its tress of life and knowledge, and its east-facing entrance, all prefigure the later tabernacle and temple. In other words, Eden is depicted as an archetypal sanctuary, where God walks (3:8) and Adam acts like a priest (the words of 2:15, “tilling and keeping,” are used of the Levites in Num 3: 7-8). (p40)
C.I. Scofield's Commentary
Chapter 1: v28, note 6 – The Edenic Covenant, the first of the eight great covenants of Scripture which condition life and salvation, and about which all Scripture crystallizes, has seven elements. The man and woman in Eden were responsible: (1) To replenish the earth with a new order – man; (2) to subdue the earth to human uses; (3) to have dominion over the animal creation; (4) to eat herbs and fruits; (5) to till and keep the garden; (6) to abstain from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil; (7) the penalty – death. See, for the other seven covenants: Adamic (Gen. 3.15); Noahic (Gen. 9.1); Abrahamic (Gen. 15.18); Mosaic (Ex. 19.25); Palestinian (Deut. 30.3); Davidic (2 Sam. 7.16); New (Heb. 8.8). (p28-29)
The Oxford Bible Commentary
Chapter 1-2: v. 1 – 2:4a – This account contains no explicit statement about God’s purpose in creating the world; but this purpose is clearly implied in the great emphasis that is placed on the position of mankind in God’s plan: the creation of mankind, the last of God’s creative acts, is evidently the climax of the whole account, and receives the greatest attention (1:26-30). The creatures created on the previous days – light, day and night, dry land, heavenly bodies, plants and animals – are all by implication provided for mankind’s use and convenience; human beings are given the plants for food, and power over the animals. Above all they are created in God’s image and likeness (1:26-7). Whatever may be the precise meaning of that phrase – this question has been endlessly debated – it sets human beings apart from all the other creatures and puts them in a unique relationship with God himself. A further clue to God’s intention when he created the world is to be found in the successive statements made at the conclusion of each act of creation, that ‘God saw that it was good’ (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25), culminating in the final comprehensive statement that he ‘saw everything that he made, and indeed, it was very good’ (1:31). This is the craftsman’s assessment of his own work; and it says something about his intention as well as about his artistry. A competently crafted artifact implies a good intention. The word ‘good’ (tôb) here, however, refers more directly to the usefulness of the world – presumably primarily its usefulness to mankind. It does not necessarily have an ethical connotation: it is not mankind that is said to be ‘good’, but God’s work as craftsman. The author was well aware of the subsequent catastrophic introduction of evil into the world (p42). . . . The meaning of the statement that mankind was created in God’s image (ṣelem) and likeness (děmût) (1:26,27) has always been a matter of discussion, as also has been the use of the plural form (‘Let us make’, ‘in our image’, 1:26, although in 1:27 the singular form ‘in his image’ is used). The most probable explanation of the second point is that the plural is used to denote the court of heavenly beings who exist to do God’s bidding. The terms ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ are probably not to be differentiated: the double phrase is simply for emphasis. It clearly defines human beings as resembling God in a way that is not the case with animals (cf. 1:28 and Ps 8: 3-8). The nature of this resemblance is not apparent, however, and hypotheses abound. Since God is often represented elsewhere in the OT as having bodily organs – hands, feet, eyes, etc. – and the world Selem is elsewhere used of images of gods, it has been supposed that the passage refers to a resemblance to God’s external form. It is more probably, however, that some less material resemblance is intended: that human beings, in distinction from the animals, possess the unique capacity to communicate meaningfully with God, or – particularly with reference to the animals – are God’s representatives or vicegerents on earth. The ordinance that mankind is to rule over the animal kingdom (1:26, 28), like the statement that the sun and moon are to rule over the day and the night (1:16), determines mankind’s function in the world. It does not imply exploitation, for food or for any other purpose; rather, it is a consequence of the gift to mankind of the image of God. Mankind is, as it were, a manager or supervisor of the world of living creatures. The blessing, accompanied by the command to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (1:28) is, as with the animals (1:22), a guarantee that life is to continue. God’s rest (šābat, 2:2) on the seventh day implies the Sabbath (šābbat – the word itself does not occur here – which is thereby ‘hallowed’ or made holy (2:3; cf. Ex 20:8). The same reason for the observance of the Sabbath is given in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:11). (p43)
The New Interpreters Bible Commentary
Chapter 1: Humans share the sixth day with other land-dwelling creatures. God is into sharing power – “Let us make humankind in our image” – and therefore humans (in God’s image) should be into sharing power. The involvement in the creative process of those created in the divine image takes the form of a command (1:28). These first divine words to human beings are about their relationship, not to God, but to the earth. They constitute a sharing of the exercise of power (dominion). From the beginning God chooses not to be the only one who has or exercises creative power. The initiative has been solely God’s, but once the invitation has been issues, God establishes a power-sharing relationship with humans. This initiative remains in the post-sin world as demonstrated in the use of God language in 5:1-3 and 9:6 as well as the use of these themes in Psalm 8. Hence, God appears less meticulously present in the life of the world; God serves as the supreme delegator of responsibility (for becoming like God in chap. 3, which bears negative connotations, see commentary on 3:22). A study of the verb have dominion (דדה rāda) reveals that it must be understood in terms of care-giving, even nurturing, not exploitation. As the image of God, human beings should relate to the nonhuman as God relates to them. This idea belongs to the world of the ideal conceptions of royal responsibility (Ezek 34:1-4, Ps 72:8-14) and centers on the animals. The command to “subdue the earth” (כבש kābaš) focuses on the earth, particularly cultivation (see 2:5, 15), a difficult task in those days. While the verb may involve coercive aspects in interhuman relationships (see Num 32:22, 29), no enemies are in view here. More generally, “subduing” involves development in the created order. This process offers to the human being the task of intra-creational development, of bringing the world along to its fullest possible creational potential. Here paradise is not a state of perfection, not a static state of affairs. Humans live in a highly dynamic situation. The future remains open to a number of possibilities in which creaturely activity will prove crucial for the development of the world (pp345-346).
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
God Separates the Earth from the Waters, and Makes it Fruitful Chapter 1: vv. 14-19 – The earth was emptiness, but by a word spoken, it became full of God’s riches, and his they are still. Though the use of them is allowed to man, they are from God, and to his service and honour they must be used. The earth, at his command, brings forth grass, herbs, and fruits. God must have the glory of all the benefit we receive from the produce of the earth. If we have, through grace, an interest in Him who is the Fountain, we may rejoice in him when the streams of temporal mercies are dried up. God Forms the Sun, Moon, and Stars vv. 20-25 – In the fourth day’s work, the creation of the sun, moon, and stars is accounted for. All these are the works of God. The stars are spoken of as they appear to our eyes, without telling their number, nature, place, size, or motions; for the Scriptures were written, not to gratify curiosity, or make us astronomers, but to lead us to God, and make us saints. The lights of heaven are made to serve him; they do it faithfully, and shine in their season without fail. We are set as lights in this world to serve God; but do we in like manner answer the end of our creation? We do not: our light does not shine before God, as his lights shine before us. We burn our Master’s candles, but do not mind our Master’s work. Animals Created vv. 26-28 – God commanded the fish and fowl to be produced. This command he himself executed. Insects, which are more numerous than the birds and beasts, and as curious, seem to have been part of this day’s work. The Creator’s wisdom and power are to be admired as much in an ant as in an elephant. The power of God’s providence preserves all things, and fruitfulness is the effect of his blessing. Food Appointed v. 31 – Herbs and fruits must be man’s food, including corn, and all the products of the earth. Let God’s people cast their care upon him, and not be troubled about what they shall eat, and what they shall drink. He that feeds his birds will not starve his babes. The First Sabbath Chapter 2: vv. 4-7 – After six days, God ceased from all works of creation. In miracles, he has overruled nature, but never changed its settled course, or added to it. God did not rest as one weary, but as one well pleased. Notice the beginning of the kingdom of grace, in the sanctification, or keeping holy, of the sabbath day. The solemn observing of one day in seven as a day of holy rest and holy work, to God’s honour, is the duty of all to whom God has made known his holy sabbaths. At this time none of the human race were in being but our first parents. For them the sabbath was appointed; and clearly for all succeeding generations also. The Christian sabbath, which we observe, is a seventh day, and in it we celebrate the rest of God the Son, and the finishing the work of our redemption. The Planting of the Garden of Eden v. 15 – The place fixed upon for Adam to dwell in, was not a palace, but a garden. The better we take up with plain things, and the less we seek things to gratify pride and luxury, the nearer we approach to innocency. Nature is content with a little, and that which is most natural; grace with less; but lust craves every thing, and is content with nothing. No delights can be satisfying to the soul, but those which God himself has provided and appointed for it. Eden signifies delight and pleasure. Wherever it was, it had all desirable conveniences, without any inconvenience, though no other house or garden on earth ever was so. It was adorned with every tree pleasant to the sight, and enriched with every tree that yielded fruit grateful to the taste and good for food. God, as a tender Father, desired not only Adam’s profit, but his pleasure; for there is pleasure with innocency, nay there is true pleasure only in innocency. When Providence puts us in a place of plenty and pleasure, we ought to serve God with gladness of heart in the good things he gives us. Man is Placed in it v. 16 – After God had formed Adam, he put him in the garden. All boasting was thereby shut out. Only he that made us can make us happy; he that is the Former of our bodies, and the Father of our spirits, and none but he, can fully provide for the happiness of both. Even in paradise itself man had to work. None of us were sent into the world to be idle. He that made our souls and bodies, has given us something to work with; and he that gave us this earth for our habitation, has made us something to work upon. The sons and heirs of heaven, while in this world, have something to do about this earth, which must have its share of their time and thoughts; and if they do it with an eye to God, they as truly serve him in it, as when they are upon their knees. Observe that the husbandman’s calling is an ancient and honourable calling; it was needful even in paradise. Also, there is true pleasure in the business God calls us to, and employs us in. Adam could not have been happy if he had been idle: it is still God’s law, He that will not work has no right to eat, 2Th 3:10.
The New Jerome Biblical Commentary
Chapter 1: v28-31 – Verse 28 is tied closely to v 27b, repeating the command already given to the fishes/birds in v 22 to “Be fruitful and multiply.” Subdue the earth: The nuance of the verb is “to master,” “to bring forcefully under control.” Force is necessary at the beginning to make the untamed land serve humans. Humans nonetheless are to respect the environment; they are not to kill for food but are to treat all life with respect. As the rest of v 28 shows, humans are the pinnacle of the created world; the world is made for man and woman. The imperatives in v 28 are a biblical way of defining essence, like the imperatives in Exod 20:2-17; Lev 19:2; Deut 16:18-20, etc. Plants will suffice for food for humans and animals; there will be no bloodshed. The prohibition is modified in the renewal of creation after the flood (9:2-5) because of the disobedience and violence mysteriously present in the human heart. 31. All creation tout ensemble, not only its component parts, is pronounced “very good,” the climactic seventh divine pronouncement. There is no evil, only beauty, in the world that God makes. 2:1-3. Heaven and earth and “all their hosts,” a word usually used of the heavenly population but here of the denizens of earth as well, are now completed. The vb. “complete” fulfills “when God began” of creation in 1:1. God keeps the Sabbath, establishing the divine order that Israel will observe by its Sabbath. The day is hallowed because God made it so. The [Gen. 1] account of creation differs from modern scientific conceptions, which typically focus on the formation of the planet in its solar system, and leave out of consideration animate life and human culture. Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies, on the contrary, are mainly interested in the emergence of a people; “nature” is only the environment for the human community. Ancients frequently imagined creation as a conflict between beings endowed with will, e.g., god(s), and cosmic forces like sea or primordial night. Reports of these conflicts are, not surprisingly, often in the form of narratives that vividly depict the battle and victory, from which emerges a defined human community (see R.J. Clifford “The Hebrew Scriptures and the Theology of Creation,” TS 46  507-23). Gen 1 stays within the categories of the “science” of its time and attempts to see in those categories divine power and purpose, and the unique place of humans. Conflict between chaotic forces (sea, darkness), which characterizes many other biblical and ancient Near Eastern accounts, is absent. There seems even to be a polemic against such conflict cosmogonies. Creation follows effortlessly from God’s mere word. Because Gen 1 is a portrait of what God intends, it is also an eschatological statement. This serene, beautiful world, in which all is ordered to humans, and humans are ordered to God, is how it will be at the end. The stories of human sin, which follow Gen 1, cannot permanently disfigure the original divine intent; God’s world will triumph. Rev 21-22, the description of God’s new world, appropriately draws on this chapter (p11).
Though the earth was given to humanity for its use, we must ever remember that it does not belong to us. We are not the Creator, and creation is not ours to do with as we please. Rather it is given to us in trust (cf. Lk 16:10-11), with the explicit command that we “provide for the redemption of the land.” Consider the images pervasive on television and the internet of crops withering from drought, wild fires raging, mudslides, and fields subsumed by floods. What does redemption for those lands look like? Rates of natural disasters have quadrupled in the last 20 years as a result of humanity’s insatiable consumption of natural resources. Are we treating the land as if we are but tenants on it? Are we showing proper respect for the true owner of the earth?
The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary
The central theology of this section, however, is found in vv. 23-24. The Lord declares that “the land is mine.” Thus the land and the crops belong to the Lord. For this reason the land cannot be sold forever. Jezebel failed to comprehend this fact, which Ahab conveniently forgot to tell her. Naboth could not sell, trade, or substitute his land at any price or inducement (see 1 Kings 21), for the ultimate owner of the land forbade such practices. What is true of Israel, in a larger sense, is true of all lands, for Ps 24:1 teaches that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is within the earth. (p1172)
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
The Jubilee of the Fiftieth Year, Oppression Forbidden The word “jubilee” signifies a peculiarly animated sound of the silver trumpets. This sound was to be made on the evening of the great day of atonement; for the proclamation of gospel liberty and salvation results from the sacrifice of the Redeemer. It was provided that the lands should not be sold away from their families. They could only be disposed of, as it were, by leases till the year of jubilee, and then returned to the owner or his heir. This tended to preserve their tribes and families distinct, till the coming of the Messiah. The liberty every man was born to, if sold or forfeited, should return at the year of jubilee. This was typical of redemption by Christ from the slavery of sin and Satan, and of being brought again to the liberty of the children of God. All bargains ought to be made by this rule, “Ye shall not oppress one another,” not take advantage of one another’s ignorance or necessity, “but thou shalt fear thy God.” The fear of God reigning in the heart, would restrain from doing wrong to our neighbour in word or deed. Assurance was given that they should be great gainers, by observing these years of rest. If we are careful to do our duty, we may trust God with our comfort. This was a miracle for an encouragement to all who neither sowed or reaped. This was a miracle for an encouragement to all God’s people, in all ages, to trust him in the way of duty. There is nothing lost by faith and self-denial in obedience. Some asked, What shall we eat the seventh year? Thus many Christians anticipate evils, questioning what they shall do, and fearing to proceed in the way of duty. But we have no right to anticipate evils, so as to distress ourselves about them. To carnal minds we may appear to act absurdly, but the path of duty is ever the path of safety.
1 Chronicles 29: 11-12
Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 Take-Aways
Every week, congregations across the globe join together to sing the familiar words of the Doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” The Chronicler appropriately reminds us that God is the author of “all that is in the heavens and on the earth” and, therefore, it is right, and good and proper for us to give God praise. Creation is a blessing God has bestowed upon us. We must not take this blessing for granted, think it is owed to us, or in any way claim credit for it. Rather the blessing should be cause for us to continually direct our thoughts to God in praise and gratitude.
The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary
‘And now’ typically marks a transition to the main point, here to thanksgiving directed to the God who acts not only on a universal plane but also as “our God,” dispensing wealth to Israel. King and people could claim no credit for their own generous giving. They were channels of resources first given by God, “What comes from your hand” (v. 14). Everything depended on God’s prevenient grace. The people of Israel, like the patriarchs, lived as aliens in the promised land (cf. 16:19-20). The land–and all the resources in it–”is mine,” declared the Lord; “with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev 25:23) or “aliens and transients,” as the NSRV renders the same Hebrew nouns. Whereas in 16:19-20, the term “alien” had a political sense and in Lev 25:23 a socioeconomic connotation, ‘here’ involves a spiritual meaning. Although David and Israel were firmly in possession of the land, nothing belonged to them by right. They were stewards of God’s property, spiritual counterparts of the royal stewards in 27:25-31 (p468).
Job 26: 7-14
He stretches out Zaphon over the void, and hangs the earth upon nothing. He binds up the waters in his thick clouds, and the cloud is not torn open by them. He covers the face of the full moon, and spreads over it his cloud. He has described a circle on the face of the waters, at the boundary between light and darkness. The pillars of heaven tremble, and are astounded at his rebuke. By his power he stilled the Sea; by his understanding he struck down Rahab. By his wind the heavens were made fair; his hand pierced the fleeing serpent. These are indeed but the outskirts of his ways; and how small a whisper do we hear of him! But the thunder of his power who can understand?’
Job 26:7-14 Take-Aways
At the root of humanity’s abuse and consumption of creation is an element of hubris. We forget we are not the ones who “laid the foundations of the earth” (38:4). Job relieves us of any such misconception. Lest we believe that what we have truly belongs to us, in elegant poetry, Job reorients us to the one in whom we live and move and have our being. Humanity is the pinnacle of creation, but nevertheless we are still part of it. We do well to remember the awesome majesty of God, who alone can tame the waters, distinguish between night and day, and uphold the foundations of the earth.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
Job Acknowledges the Power of God Many striking instances are here given of the wisdom and power of God, in the creation and preservation of the world. If we look about us, to the earth and waters here below, we see his almighty power. If we consider hell beneath, though out of our sight, yet we may conceive the discoveries of God’s power there. If we look up to heaven above, we see displays of God’s almighty power. By his Spirit, the eternal Spirit that moved upon the face of the waters, the breath of his mouth, Ps 33:6, he has not only made the heavens, but beautified them. By redemption, all the other wonderful works of the Lord are eclipsed; and we may draw near, and taste his grace, learn to love him, and walk with delight in his ways.
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
This hymn of praise to God expresses the intimate connection between God, humanity, and the earth. God’s very “glory and name” are tied to creation, which God entrusts to humanity. The New Interpreters Bible Commentary states, “God’s ‘name’ or reputation is bound up with the human performance of sovereignty. The identity and destiny of God, of humanity, and of creation are inextricably intertwined. Theology, anthropology, and ecology are inseparable.” What an awesome responsibility to be entrusted with the very glory of God. The psalm also holds in tension humanity’s complex position in the cosmological order. It affirms humanity’s nobility while reminding us of our insignificance. Who has not stared into the vast starry night and thought how small we are? Yet, we are crowned with God’s glory and honour. It is we, above all others, that God has chosen to be God’s representatives on earth and to be partners with God in caring for creation.
The New Interpreters Bible Commentary
That God rules the world has already been proclaimed (vv.1-2), but not (5-8) it is affirmed that humanity has royal status, too–indeed, “a little lower than God” … The attributes with which humans are “crowned” (see 2 Sam 12:30; Ps 21:3; Jer 13:18; Ezek 21:26) are royal ones. Both human kings and God as king possess “glory”… The sovereign God has bestowed sovereignty upon the human creature. This remarkable affirmation is described in different terms in vv. 6-8. The human exercise the kingly function of “dominion” (see NRSV “rule”/”ruler”/”sovereign” in Gen 45:8,26; Judg 8:22-23; 9:2; 2 Sam 23:3; 1 Kgs 4:21) over “all things” (v.6). Although the Hebrew words translated “dominion” differ in v. 6 (Hebrew masal) and Gen 1:26-28 (Hebrew rada), Psalm 8 clearly recalls Genesis 1. The phrase “image of God” does not occur in Psalm 8, but the language and movement of Psalm 8 suggest that humans represent God in the world. This, of course, has profound implications for understanding both God and humanity. God and humans are partners in the care of creation, because God has made the risky choice to share God’s power! This conclusion is reinforced by the second occurrence of the refrain. Verse 9 is an exact verbal repetition of v.1, but the second occurrence has a fuller sense that is achieved primarily by repetition of the word “all.” When the refrain occurs the second time, it is clear that the majesty of God’s name, which is known “in all the earth,” includes the dominion of humanity, for God has given them dominion over God’s “works” (v.6; cf. v. 4j) by putting “all things under their feet” (v. 6; see v.7). God’s “name” or reputation is bound up with the human performance of dominion, and human dominion is a responsibility that is to be bounded by God’s ultimate sovereignty. The identity and destiny of God, of humanity, and of the creation are inextricably intertwined. Theology, anthropology, and ecology are inseparable. The psalm is framed by proclamation of God’s sovereignty, and at the center of the psalm (v. 4) is the question that leads to the proclamation of God-given human sovereignty (vv. 5-8). Walter Brueggeman suggests that the crucial interpretive move is to hold the boundaries and the center together. To fail to take seriously the central importance of humanity in God’s plan for the creation is to abdicate the God-given responsibility to be partners with God in caring for the earth (see Ps 115:16). At the same time, it is necessary to recognize that the proclamation of human sovereignty is bounded, both structurally and theologically, by the proclamation of God’s sovereignty. In other words, human sovereignty is derivative. Apart from the limits of God’s sovereign will, the exercise of dominion is in danger of becoming simply human autonomy, or self-rule. As suggested above (see Commentary on Psalms 1;2), the attempt to live beyond the claim of God is the essence of wickedness. In other words, dominion without the recognition of God’s claim on us and on the earth becomes domination. To leave God out of the partnership invites disaster; indeed frightening signs of ecological disaster are all around us, from eroding soil to polluted streams to the possible depletion of the ozone layer. Psalm 8 is thus a reminder “that the God-praising and the earth-caring community are one” (pp 711-712).
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
Psalm 8 is a hymn or a song of praise. It is both introduced and concluded with the hymnic phrase “O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” This phrase provides the keynote to the reading of the entire psalm. It is the central theme and a summary of what the psalm conveys, namely, that the Lord must be acknowledged and praised as the majestic sovereign. Apart from the framework (8:1a, 9), the psalm can be divided into the following strophes: vv. 1b-2, 3-4, and 5-8. Although every strophe reflects a particular perspective, each of them has the same purpose, namely to convince the reader the Lord is praiseworthy. The content of the “hymnic framework” (8:1a, 9) can be summarized as follows: by means of an exclamation (“how . . . “), two aspects are brought to the fore. First, the majesty and sovereign power of the Lord embrace the whole world and all spheres of life, and second, God has a close relationship with his people. He is not a distant God but “our Sovereign.” This theme is elaborated in the remainder of the psalm. . . . The second strophe (8: 3-4) underlines the greatness of the Lord by contrasting the size of creation with the insignificance of “human beings.” So great is God that he created the immense firmament and all the heavenly bodies effortlessly, merely by using his “fingers.” In comparison to God, “human beings” or “mortals” are nothing. By using the same Hebrew word with regard to human beings (“what . . . ?” v. 4) that was used earlier with regard to God (“how,” v. 1a) and by stating it as a rhetorical question, human insignificance is accentuated. The lovingkindness of the Lord is demonstrated by his mindfulness of humans in spite of their insignificance. The poet prefers the use of contrasts to make his point. This preference occurs again in the third strophe (8: 5-8), which contrasts with the preceding one. Whereas the weakness of humans is emphasized in the second strophe, in the third strophe their dignity as representatives of the Lord is placed in the foreground. The Lord is the subject of all the verbs in vv. 5-6. Humans have no authority or dignity in themselves; rather, they receive all their power from God. A striking metaphor, that of a king, is used to describe their responsibility. The lord has crowned human beings with “glory and honor,” God’s won attributes of royalty. Since they are image bearers of God, the Lord has made humans a little less than his divine being. In language reminiscent of Genesis 1, their dominion is described in detail in vv. 7-8. Human beings rule over domestic animals, wild creatures, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and all the other creatures of the ocean. The psalm concludes (8:9) with the same hymnic verse with which it began (v. 1a). The first and the last thought is about the glory of God. In this way the psalm demonstrates that everything points to god and that without doxology there can be no human dignity. Only when human beings are aware of their own insignificance can they recognize the greatness of God and will they be able to represent the Lord in the right way on earth (p 373).
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
And for Making Even the Heaving Bodies Useful to Man, Thereby Placing Him but Little Lower Than the Angels We are to consider the heavens, that man thus may be directed to set his affections on things above. What is man, so mean a creature, that he should be thus honoured! so sinful a creature, that he should be thus favoured! Man has sovereign dominion over the inferior creatures, under God, and is appointed their lord. This refers to Christ. In Heb 2:6 to 8, the apostle, to prove the sovereign dominion of Christ, shows he is that Man, that Son of man, here spoken of, whom God has made to have dominion over the works of his hands. The greatest favour ever showed to the human race, and the greatest honour ever put upon human nature, were exemplified in the Lord Jesus. With good reason does the psalmist conclude as he began, Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, which has been honoured with the presence of the Redeemer, and is still enlightened by his gospel, and governed by his wisdom and power! What words can reach his praises, who has a right to our obedience as our Redeemer?
Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. You covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work. He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for man to cultivate– bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his face shine, and bread that sustains his heart. The trees of the LORD are well watered, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted. There the birds make their nests; the stork has its home in the pine trees. The high mountains belong to the wild goats; the crags are a refuge for the coneys. The moon marks off the seasons, and the sun knows when to go down. You bring darkness, it becomes night, and all the beasts of the forest prowl. The lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God. The sun rises, and they steal away; they return and lie down in their dens. Then man goes out to his work, to his labor until evening. How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number– living things both large and small. There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works–he who looks at the earth, and it trembles, who touches the mountains, and they smoke. I will sing to the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live. May my meditation be pleasing to him, as I rejoice in the LORD. But may sinners vanish from the earth and the wicked be no more. Praise the LORD, O my soul. Praise the LORD.
Psalm 104 Take-Aways
As with other passages, Psalm 104 emphasizes God’s role as Creator and is a hymn of praise to God for creation. Is it significant that so many people throughout the Bible believed it was important to thank God for creation? Read through the Psalms and consider how many reference God as Creator and why that was important to the author. Psalm 104 portrays the world as a created and unified order. Compared to Psalm 8, humans are mentioned within this order, but not given special attention. Creation is intended to meet their needs, but God is also described as providing for the wild animals, birds and trees. This description of a natural order calls to mind Ecclesiastes 3. Humans go out to work in the day and retire at night “when all the animals of the forest come creeping out.” This psalm also emphasizes that creation is an ongoing act. Not only is God the one who created, God is the one who is creating, the one who is sustaining the earth and the boundaries that were established from the beginning.
For further study of Psalm 104, see the Bible Study “A Satisfied Creation”
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible
God’s Majesty in the Heavens, the Creation of the Sea, and the Dry Land Every object we behold calls on us to bless and praise the Lord, who is great. His eternal power and Godhead are clearly shown by the things which he hath made. God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. The Lord Jesus, the Son of his love, is the Light of the world. His Provision for all Creatures When we reflect upon the provision made for all creatures, we should also notice the natural worship they render to God. Yet man, forgetful ungrateful man, enjoys the largest measure of his Creator’s kindness, the earth, varying in different lands. Nor let us forget spiritual blessings; the fruitfulness of the church through grace, the bread of everlasting life, the cup of salvation, and the oil of gladness. Does God provide for the inferior creatures, and will he not be a refuge to his people? The Regular Course of Day and Night, and God’s Sovereign Power Over All the Creatures We are to praise and magnify God for the constant succession of day and night. And see how those are like to the wild beasts, who wait for the twilight, and have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Does God listen to the language of mere nature, even in ravenous creatures, and shall he not much more interpret favourably the language of grace in his own people, though weak and broken groanings which cannot be uttered? There is the work of every day, which is to be done in its day, which man must apply to every morning, and which he must continue in till evening; it will be time enough to rest when the night comes, in which no man can work. The psalmist wonders at the works of God. The works of art, the more closely they are looked upon, the more rough they appear; the works of nature appear more fine and exact. They are all made in wisdom, for they all answer the end they were designed to serve. Every spring is an emblem of the resurrection, when a new world rises, as it were, out of the ruins of the old one. But man alone lives beyond death. When the Lord takes away his breath, his soul enters on another state, and his body will be raised, either to glory or to misery. May the Lord send forth his Spirit, and new-create our souls to holiness. (Ps 104:31-35) A Resolution to Continue Praising God Man’s glory is fading; God’s glory is everlasting: creatures change, but with the Creator there is no variableness. And if mediation on the glories of creation be so sweet to the soul, what greater glory appears to the enlightened mind, when contemplating the great work of redemption! There alone can a sinner perceive ground of confidence and joy in God. While he with pleasure upholds all, governs all, and rejoices in all his works, let our souls, touched by his grace, meditate on and praise him.
Eerdman's Commentary on the Bible
Psalm 104 is a song of praise to God as the creator who made all things in his wisdom, who sustains the entire creation, and who supplies every creature’s needs. Psalm 104 is often called the pearl of the psalter. The best way to appreciate the greatness of this poem and take in its message is simply to sit down and read it. Numerous exegetes have pointed out the similarities between Psalm 104 and other biblical (esp. Genesis 1) and extrabiblical texts (esp. creation hymns from Egypt and Mesopotamia). It is impossible to determine the exact relationship between Psalm 104 and these texts. What can be said, however, is that the poet of Psalm 104 created a new poem to portray the greatness of God as the creator and the harmony between him and his creation. The psalm offers a comprehensive perspective on the entire cosmos as a meaningful and ordered whole. The literary form and the theological message of the psalm complement one another because the perspective of both is that creation and the lord’s relationship with his creation form a coherent whole. The injunction to praise with which the psalm begins and ends (cf. 104: 1a, 35b) forms the framework within which the whole psalm should be read. The function of the rest of the psalm is to support these invocations to praise. Although Psalm 104 concentrates chiefly on the creation, it is not merely a description of the creation but primarily a laudation of the creator. It is not only a depiction of nature but also a confession of faith by a poet who contends that the Lord is the Creator who sustains the whole world and is the only true God. Theophanic language (cf. Ps 18: 7-15) is used in the first strophe (104: 1b-4) to describe God as the omnipotent and illustrious king and triumphant warrior. In the second strophe (vv. 5-9) the emphasis falls on the creative power of the Lord and on the origin of the habitable world. In line with the worldview of the time, the Lord’s creative acts are seen in terms of the partition, ordering, and establishment of the earth. The terminology used here is reminiscent of the chaos struggle of Canaanite mythology, and it is intended to signify that the lord is the victor over the chaotic forces (cf. also Pss 89:9-12 and 93: 3-4). It becomes clear from the third strophe (104: 10-18) that not only is the Lord the Creator but that he also supplies the needs of his creatures. The water subdued by him now becomes a source of life. The Lord provides water, food, and shelter. He makes provision for the whole realm of nature – plants, animals, and people – and is concerned about all living things. In the fourth strophe (104: 19-23) the subject is the rhythm of life. God is in command of the day and the night. He has the seasons in his charge. He is in command of all life. The sun and moon, which are deified by some other nations, were made by the Lords to indicate time. Human working rhythms and rhythms of life have been laid down by God. In the fifth strophe (104: 24-26) the poet expresses his amazement about the variety to be found in creation. God has created everything in his wisdom and given everything a place. The lord is in control of the entire creation, and everything is a sign of his wisdom. The sixth strophe (vv. 27-30) emphasizes that the entire creation is dependent on God. It is God who feeds all creatures and is in control of life and death. The creation and all creatures depend on the Lord for survival and venerate his providence. In the seventh strophe (104: 31-35) the psalm ends in the same way in which it began, namely, with an injunction to praise. The entire poem is characterized by praise to God for his benevolent act of creation, and this is enhanced by the theophanic description (cf. v. 32 and vv. 2-3). The poet of Psalm 104 does, however, show signs of being aware of the realities of life and of the fact that the harmony expressed in the remainder of the psalm is not always the norm: sinners (v. 35) are a discordant note in the Lord’s creation and should therefore be removed. This curse, which is couched in strongly hyperbolic language, is intended as a warning to all who are out of step with the harmony of creation. The greatness and perfection of the creation inspired the poet of Psalm 104 to write a song of praise to the Lord. All people should react in the same way and should be inspired, furthermore, to maintain the natural order in God’s creation (pp 414-415).