May 23, 2017: Verse of the day

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104:24–26 The variety of God’s works is staggering. “What wisdom has designed them all” (Knox). The earth is full of His creatures, and He cares for each one with amazing attention to detail. The sea swarms with life both small and great, ranging all the way from the minute plankton to the whales.

The mention of ships in verse 26 seems somewhat out of place in a discussion of living creatures. Some understand it to mean sea monsters (Gen. 1:21), but ships is the correct reading. Leviathan (in the same verse) may refer to the whales or porpoises which find the sea an ideal playground for their sporting antics. (But see comments and endnotes on Job 41.)[1]


The Glory of the Animal Creation (104:24–26)

Commentary

24–26 The world of creation reveals the power, wisdom, and creative diversity of the Lord. In vv. 5–9 the psalmist was in awe of God’s majestic power. Verses 10–18 reflect on the variety of his creatures and on his wisdom in sustaining all of them. Verses 19–23 evoke a response of gratitude, because the Lord is in control over the seasons and the alternation of day and night. In verses 24–26 the psalmist calls on the reader to worship with him the Lord’s wisdom and creative diversity. He has multiple “works” (v. 24; cf. v. 13) all over his world. All life belongs to him (“your creatures,” lit., “your possession”), whether on “the earth” (v. 24) or in “the sea” (v. 25).

The emphasis on sea creatures magnificently complements the mention in vv. 10–18 of wild and domesticated animals, birds, and humans. The Lord provides for the great number of sea creatures that in equal variety inhabit the seas (v. 25). Wherever ships have plied the seas (v. 26), reports have come back on the interesting variety of animal life in the sea, among which is the “leviathan.” The “leviathan”—a creature feared by the Canaanites because of its power, represented by seven heads (cf. ANET, 137–38; see Notes, 74:13)—is here only a large sea animal, a creature of God (“which you formed”), the Lord’s pet (v. 26). For an extensive study of this motif, see Day, God’s Conflict with the Dragon and the Sea.[2]


104:24–26 This portion corresponds to the fifth day of creation in Ge 1:20–23.[3]


104:25–26 The Lord Delights in the Sea Creatures, Too. After celebrating God’s care for the land animals, the song moves on to the open sea … which teems with creatures innumerable (corresponding to the fifth creation day, Gen. 1:20–23). (The ships that men sail for merchant activities do not defile the creation order.) Leviathan (see note on Ps. 74:14) here is probably a poetic name for a whale, and is therefore one of the “great sea creatures” (Gen. 1:21). Although the word can be used for an enemy of God, this psalm joins the creation account in portraying the various creatures as subject to the Lord, not opposing him. The admiration continues, as the song says that God formed Leviathan to play in the sea (or, if the alternate rendering in the ESV footnote is followed, he formed it to be his partner in play); throughout this psalm, delight takes the singing congregation far beyond mere utility![4]


104:25 sea … creatures innumerable. The fifth day of creation (Gen. 1:20–23).

104:26 ships … Leviathan. The psalmist’s imagination is caught up with God’s mysterious sea. On its surface ships glide to and fro from distant ports, while underneath lurks the monster Leviathan, here a poetic symbol of God’s creative power (Job 41).[5]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 708). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 768–769). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 104:24–26). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1071). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 953). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

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