THE PSALM OF CREATION
This creation hymn, Psalm 104, was modeled on the Egyptian “Hymn to Aton,” written by the monotheistic pharaoh Akhnaton (c. 1375-1358 B.C.). This king worshiped the one God Aton or Aten (Egypt. “Orb,” “Disk,” “Sun Disk”). Although his religion was suppressed after his death, its influence remained in such writings as this psalm. The Hebrew editor evidently accepted the idea that Aton could be identified as Yahweh. There are many parallels to the Genesis account of the Creation in this originally Egyptian poem, but there are also some instances of differing concepts (e.g. light created to be a garment of God, dark-ness created, the Tree of Life a cedar, man’s work is not a curse, all creatures have spirits, creation of monsters a playful act, earthquake and volcano a result of theo-phanic impingement, i.e., violent contact between the Creator and the cosmos).
Psalm 104 Commentary
Bless Yahweh, my soul. Nephesh: soul, mind, being
Yahweh my God, You are very great. Yahweh is Creator, not some
You are clothed with honor and majesty, other nation’s god.
You cover Yourself with light as a garment, Creation of Light.
You have stretched out the heavens like a tent, Creation of cosmic Pavilion.
You have laid the beams of your chambers on the waters, Beams of heaven on cosmic sea
You make the Clouds Your chariot, Clouds are wind-spirits.
You ride on the wings of the Wind-spirits, Ruach: wind, spirit, breath
You make the Winds Your messenger-angels, Malach: messenger, angel
Fire and Flame Your slaves. Heaven-Fire, lightning, animated.
You did set the Earth on its foundations, Earth mass supported by pillars.
So that it should never be shaken.
You did cover it with the Deep as with a garment. At first, Earth submerged.
The waters stood above the mountains.
At Your rebuke they fled; God’s Voice: rebuke, thunder
At the sound of Your thunder they fled away. “They” - water as dragons.
The mountains rose and the valleys sank down Earth rose from Primordial
To the place that You appointed for them. Waters
You did set a bound which they (the Deeps) should not pass,
So that they might not again cover the earth. As after Noah’s Flood.
You make springs gush forth in the valleys; Each spring created through
They flow between the hills. God’s providence.
They give drink to every beast of the field; Gen. 2:6, mist watered earth
The wild asses quench their thirst. Gen. 2:10, cosmic river, later
By them the birds of the air have their dwellings; called the River of Life
They sing among the branches.
From Your lofty Abode You water the mountains; God’s Abode on or above The earth is satisfied with the fruit of Your work. tops of mountains.
You cause the grass to grow for the cattle, Creation of Plants.
And plants for man to cultivate, Gen. 2:15, man the gardener.
So he may bring forth food from the earth
And wine to gladden the heart of man, Creation of grapes.
Oil to make his face shine Creation of olives.
And bread to strengthen man’s heart. Creation of grain.
The trees of Yahweh are watered abundantly, An Eden-like garden situated
The cedars of Lebanon which He planted. Lebanon (cf. Dan. 4:10).
In them the birds build their nests;
The stork has her home in the fir trees.
The high mountains are for the wild goats;
The rocks are a refuge for the badgers. Creation of Luminaries:
You made the Moon* to mark the seasons. Gen. 1:14, “signs & seasons”
The Sun knows its time for setting. Sun an animated being, “host”
You make darkness, and it is night, Creation of darkness (Isa. 45:7)
When all the beasts of the forest creep forth. Creation of night.
The young lions roar for their prey,
Seeking their food from God. All food is providential.
When the sun rises, they creep away Lions work by night;
And lie down in their dens. Man works by day.
Man goes forth to his work Gen. 3:19, work a curse, in And to his labor until the evening. the “sweat of the brow”
Yahweh, how many are Your works.
In wisdom You have made them all; Wisdom: first created (Prov. 8)
The earth is full of Your creatures.
There is the great wide sea, Yam: Sea, Mediterranean
Which teems with innumerable things,
Living things both small and great. Creation of Fish.
There go the ships,
And Leviathan that You formed to sport in it. Creation of Monsters (Gen. 1:21)
All these look to You a playful aspect of creation
To give them their food in due season.
When You give to them, they gather it up;
When You open Your hand, they are filled with good things.
When You hide Your face, they are dismayed; Panim: Face, Countenance
When You take away their breath, they die Ruach: breath, spirit, wind
and return to their dust. Creatures made from dust.
When You send forth Your Spirit, Ruach: spirit, breath
They are created, All creatures have spirit.
And You renew the face of the earth. Living things cover the earth.
(cf. Gen. 1:28 “replenish”)
May the glory of Yahweh endure forever, Kavod: Glory (v. 2 above)
May Yahweh rejoice in His works, Gen. 1:10, creation “good”
You look on the earth and it trembles, Earthquakes by eye flash.
You touch the mountains, and they smoke. Volcanoes by finger touch.
I will sing to Yahweh as long as I live; Hymn follows victory over
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. chaos, cf. Roman triumph
May my meditation be pleasing to Him,
For I rejoice in Yahweh.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth, Annihilation of the wicked,
And let the wicked be no more. idea developed into Hell.
Bless Yahweh, my soul. Bless: power of spoken word
Praise Yahweh. “Hallelujah.”
*Moon comes before Sun; the Hebrew ancestors worshiped the moon in Mesopotamia. The night sky was important for astrological “signs” and for defining the “seasons.”