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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 103

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.

Psalms 103:1-22.-Bless Yahweh, my soul, for having saved body, soul, and life, and satisfying me with good things (Psalms 103:1-5); He is the righteous Redeemer of His oppressed people from Moses' days downward. Even oppressions he overrules to His people's good, chastising us less than our sins deserve (Psalms 103:6-10); God's mercy illustrated by the height of the heavens, the distance between east and west, and a father's pity for weak children (Psalms 103:11-14); His everlasting mercy to His own is our only refuge from our mortality (Psalms 103:15-18); His kingdom rules over all: let all, therefore, praise Him, especially the Psalmist (Psalms 103:19-22). This is the praise-song of Yahweh's mercy and judgment which David promised at the beginning of the trilogy (Psalms 101:1). David's ideal successor, and then Yahweh's people, whom he represents, is the speaker.

Verse 2

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:

Bless the Lord, O my soul ... Bless the Lord, O my soul - with the "Bless the Lord, O my soul," Psalms 103:22, these two form the thrice-repeated blessing from the soul to the Lord: answering to the thrice-repeated blessing from the Lord to the soul in the Mosaic formula, Numbers 6:24-26.

And all that is within me - Hebrew, plural, 'all my inward parts' (Psalms 5:9): the heart, the feelings, the understanding; in contrast to what is outward, the lips, with which even the thankless seem to thank God (cf. Psalms 62:4). All my heart is contrasted with a divided or half-heart (cf. Psalms 86:11-12). Deuteronomy 6:5 is the original.

His holy name - Himself in His manifestation of His character as the holy and adorable One (Psalms 22:3).

Verse 2. And forget not all his benefits - a hint to David's seed that they, too, should not (as the human heart is apt to do) forget all God's benefits. So Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:11; Deuteronomy 8:14. The very prosperity which is the gift of God is too often the occasion of the heart being lifted up so as to forget the Giver (Deuteronomy 32:15). The Hebrew [ gªmuwl (H1576)] for "benefits" generally means 'retribution' or 'reward,' as in Psalms 103:10 (Psalms 7:4). The only claim that we have to God's benefits is His own grace and our great wretchedness, which moves His infinite compassion. In Psalms 13:6; Psalms 119:17; 2 Chronicles 32:25, the Hebrew is used as here of the bountiful dealings or benefits which God gives in accordance with His own goodness: they are due to His compassionate nature, not to our merits. "All His benefits" beautifully correspond to 'all that is in me,' which is called on to bless him proportionally.

Verse 3

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;

Who forgiveth all thine iniquities - according to David's prayer, trusting in God's gracious character (Psalms 25:11; Psalms 51:9; Psalms 86:5). This shall be Israel's experience when she shall turn to the Lord. To this the ulterior reference is (Psalms 130:8; Jeremiah 50:20).

Who healeth all thy diseases. The maladies of the body, including all earthly sufferings (Deuteronomy 29:22; Exodus 15:26), are associated with the soul's sicknesses, "iniquities." Christ came as the Healer of both. By removing sin, the cause, He will finally remove sickness and suffering, the effect (Isaiah 33:24). He gave an earnest of this in combining His forgiveness of the paralytic with His cure of his body (Mark 2:5; Mark 2:10; Matthew 9:2; Matthew 9:6: cf. also Luke 7:47, and the quotation of Isaiah 53:4, with a significant alteration in Matthew 8:17).

Verse 4

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;

Who redeemeth thy life from destruction - or 'the pit;' to which David represented himself, in the person of his seed and his nation, Israel, in the latter days as verging (Psalms 102:11; Psalms 102:23; cf. Psalms 68:20; Psalms 88:3).

Who crowneth thee - (Psalms 65:11.)

With loving-kindness and tender mercies - (Psalms 25:6; Psalms 40:11.)

Verse 5

Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.

Who satisfieth thy mouth. The Hebrew for "mouth" [ `edyeek (H5716)] is the same as in Psalms 32:9, where see note. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Ethiopic, and Arabic translate, 'thy desire;' Syriac, 'thy body.' The usual meaning is 'beauty' or 'ornament' (Ezekiel 7:20). So the soul, the glory of the man (Psalms 57:8), is said here to be satisfied or fully filled by God with good things; or rather, as the Syriac version, the body, whose "youth is renewed like the eagle's," is meant. The body is man's outward beauty, as the soul is the inward. In contrast stands his previous weakened and withered appearance of body, in Psalms 102:3-5. However, in favour of the soul being meant (Hengstenberg), cf. Psalms 107:9, "He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness;" Psalms 63:5; also Isaiah 58:11.

So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's - i:e., as the eagle casts her feathers and becomes bald like young ones, and then is covered with new feathers. Other birds also moult. But the eagle is selected as the emblem of vigour: whence the Greek proverb, 'The eagle's old age is as good as the lark's youth.' Hengstenberg thinks the latter point alone is referred to, not the moulting, and translates, 'thy youth is renewed like (i:e., so as to be as strong as) the eagle.' So in Isaiah 40:31: cf. Lamentations 5:21. Scripture knows nothing of the fable which subsequently spring up of the eagle renewing its youth in old age.

Verses 6-10

The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.

-From praising God's favour our in perpetually renewing the vigour of David's line, when seemingly on the point of extinction, the Psalmist passes to His benefits to Israel literal and spiritual, whose interests are inseparably bound up with the line of David culminating in Messiah.

Verse 6. The Lord executeth righteousness ... for all that are oppressed - i:e., for all His oppressed people (cf. Psalms 103:7; Psalms 68:5, "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows;" namely, the orphaned and husbandless Israel and the Church, when their Lord seems removed in the day of trouble).

Verse 7. He made known his ways unto Moses - in actual deeds of guidance and deliverance, not in mere words. So in Psalms 25:4; Exodus 33:13 is the fundamental passage. When Moses, as representative of Israel, prayed, "Show me now thy way" - i:e., manifest thy power in guiding safely me and the nation God promised, "My presence shall go (with thee), and I will give thee rest."

His acts unto ... Israel - His marvelous and mighty deeds (Isaiah 9:11; 78:11; Exodus 34:10).

Verse 8. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy - from Exodus 34:6-7; repeated in Psalms 86:15, and elsewhere, which shows how deep an impression was made on Israel by this comforting truth. This alone ought to have kept the people forever from the worship of the pagan gods of terror and cruelty.

Verse 9. He will not always chide - chastise (cf. Isaiah 57:16).

Neither will he keep (his anger) forever. The same ellipsis of "His anger" occurs in Leviticus 19:18; Jeremiah 3:5. He does keep or 'reserve (wrath) for His enemies;' but not for His people.

Verse 10. He hath not dealt with us after our sins - as He threatened in Leviticus 26:23-24. He executes His threat upon willful and hardened transgressors; but "with us" who "fear Him" (Psalms 103:11; Psalms 103:13; Psalms 103:17) 'He doth not deal after (i:e., according to) our sins.'

Verse 11

For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.

For as the heaven is high above the earth, (so) great is his mercy toward them that fear him - i:e., is infinite (Psalms 36:5; Psalms 57:10). "Fear" is here filial reverence toward God on the ground of His infinite holiness. This calls forth childlike and unreserved obedience to His revealed will. The Psalmist is speaking of what God is to His own people, not to mankind in general.

Verse 12

As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.

As far as the east is from the west, (so) far hath he removed our transgressions from us - entirely acquitting us of their guilt and penalty (Micah 7:18-19).

Verses 13-14

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.

Like as a father pitieth (his) children, (so) the Lord pitieth ... For he knoweth our frame. The misery of our state, which might seem to shut us out from One so infinitely perfect, is the very inducement to God to show fatherly pity toward us (Psalms 78:38-39; Psalms 89:47).

Our frame - our natural constitution. The same Hebrew ( yitsreenuw (H3336)) is used here as in Genesis 2:7; therefore the allusion is to that passage, 'The Lord God, framed (English version, formed) man of the dust.' He, as being our Framer, knoweth our frame.

He remembereth that we are dust. The Hebrew, ( zaakuwr (H2142)) is passive or reflexive, 'He is mindful,' etc.

Verses 15-18

As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.

-Our grass-like frailty and mortality would cause us to despair, but that we have sure hope in Yahweh's everlasting mercy to those that fear Him, as well those of the latest generation as those of the earliest. Compare Moses' words, Psalms 90:1-5, from which this passage is derived. Compare a similar contrast between man's grass-like frailty and God's eternal word, Isaiah 40:6-8. Here it is God's everlasting mercy.

Verse 15. As for man, his days are as grass. "Man" - literally, mortal and miserable man: Hebrew, 'ªnowsh (H582), from a root [ 'aanash (H605)], to be desperately diseased (Buxtorf). Seth so named his son (Genesis 4:26), from the humanly-incurable misery into which man had fallen by sin. So Psalms 8:4. (See the note there); Psalms 37:2.

As the flower of the field, so he flourisheth. His flourishing or vitality is of as short duration (Psalms 90:5-6; Job 14:1-2).

Verse 16. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone - the scorching east wind (Genesis 41:6; Genesis 41:23; Jonah 4:8).

And the place thereof - namely, of the flower.

Shall know it no more - (Job 7:10; Job 20:9).

Verse 17. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him. "Upon them" - i:e., protecting them from above, and coming upon them in blessings. Thrice the words of limitation, "them that fear him," are repeated as a warning against transgressors presumptuously taking to themselves this promise, which does not belong to them (Psalms 103:11; Psalms 103:13; Psalms 103:17).

And his righteousness unto children's children - (Exodus 20:6.) God's righteousness consists not in His rewarding us according to our strict merits, but in His showing faithfulness to His own character and to His promises (Psalms 103:18) to them that sincerely seek Him. Alike to the fathers of Israel (Psalms 103:7) and to the remotest children (Luke 1:72-74; Acts 2:39). The ultimate ground of God's being righteous in showing mercy is the law-fulfilling righteousness of Messiah.

Verse 18. To such as keep his covenant. Deuteronomy 7:9; Deuteronomy 7:11 is referred to here, and in Psalms 25:10.

And to those that remember his commandments - (cf. "forget not," Psalms 103:2.) He "remembereth" us (Psalms 103:14) when we "remember" Him, "His benefits," and "His commandments."

Verses 19-22

The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.

-Yahweh's kingdom ruleth over all, therefore let all praise Him, angels and men alike, especially the Psalmist's soul.

Verse 19. The Lord hath prepared his throne in the heavens - (Psalms 9:4; Psalms 9:7; Hebrews 1:11.) God's throne is infinitely above all earthly thrones.

And his kingdom ruleth over all. All the God-forgetting world- powers shall have at length to acknowledge this (Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 47:2), as Nebuchadnezzar was obliged to do (Daniel 4:25; Daniel 4:34-35).

Verse 20. Bless the Lord, ye his angels - (Psalms 29:1-2). The angels' praises of God ought to stir up us men, still more favoured than angels, to praise Him.

That excel in strength - `that are mighty heroes in strength' ( giboreey (H1368) koach (H3581)).

Hearkening unto the voice of his word - obeying it (Deuteronomy 26:17). This distinguishes the angelic hosts from the unintelligent starry "hosts" (Psalms 103:21).

Verse 21. Bless ye the Lord, all ye his hosts ... that do his pleasure. The sun, moon, stars, and planets do His pleasure (Psalms 19:1) unconsciously; the "angels" consciously, and with instinctive love, "hearken unto the voice of His word" (Psalms 103:20). Both together constitute the Lord's "hosts" (Psalms 24:10).

Verse 22. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Thou who hast received so many and so great proofs of God's favour canst not be silent when all the rest of God's creatures praise Him. The psalm closes as it began (Psalms 103:1).

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 103". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/psalms-103.html. 1871-8.
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