Answer by John Mackay
This is one of those Psalms that begin with this author’s favourite line “Bless the Lord, Oh my soul!” Makes the singing great and that’s what the Psalms were designed to be …songs! They are therefore poetry, which is particularly obvious in their Hebrew parallelism where the same thought is repeated twice, as opposed to English rhyming where the same sound in repeated. Because the Psalms are designed to be poetry which is sung, they therefore use that common technique of poetic licence, so Psalms should not to be regarded as primary sources of history, although they can be a helpful commentary on history recorded in non-poetry sections of the Bible. Psalm 104 is full of reasons past and present as to why you should “Bless the Lord.”
So let’s consider its progression of thoughts:
Verse 1 says the Lord, God, is very great.
Verse 2 refers to God covering himself with light and stretching out the heavens.
Verse 4 glorifies the One who makes the angels to be ministers to achieve His purposes. But Verse 5 seems to change to a new time context. Note it talks about the past tense laying of the foundations of the earth.
Verse 6 informs us He covered it with the deep and that waters stood above the mountains. “At His rebuke they fled!” There is no doubt about it! This past tense reference in verse 5 to the foundations of an earth covered with waters, which were rebuked and fled (v7-8), fits neatly into the events of the first 3 days of Creation recorded in Genesis chapter 1.
Let’s show that with a simple reminder of the order in Genesis 1:1-9;
1) The heavens were made.
2) The earth was created.
3) The world was covered with water, and
4) On the third day, God commanded the water to be gathered into one place so dry land could appear.
But suddenly in verse 9, the psalmist’s swaps from the past tense of Creation days 1-3, into his own present tense world and links the two together via an event which has occurred twice in earth’s history involving the removal of water that was covering the earth. Psalm 104:9 tells us God made a boundary for the waters that ran off the mountains, so they could never again cover the whole earth. There is only one cross- reference to this that makes any sense and that is the end of Noah’s flood Genesis 9:11. That event lead us from the old world into the one we inhabit where both the Psalmist and ourselves benefit as God still sends springs into the valleys to gives water to the beasts of the field.
We ought not to be surprised at this use of a poetic link. Noah’s flood was not the first time the world was covered with water. That occurred during the first 3 days of creation. So when anyone asks where did all the water come from that covered the world in Noah’s day, the answer is simple; the world was created covered with water, so there was always enough to flood it again. Therefore, when God raised up the dry land on the third day, it included any hills and mountains that were part of his pre-flood planet. On that third day the waters ran off the earth to a place where God had appointed them. But when the psalmist repeats this thought in parallel a second time in verse 9, he adds more information by referring to a boundary that God only put into place after the flood, so that the waters may never again cover the earth. While the first world had a sea with a boundary, that boundary was broken at Noah’s flood.
It was important for the psalmist to show that in this new world, his and ours, we can still ‘Bless the Lord’ even more because the water now behaves in accordance with God’s promise to Noah. It will never again cross over to flood and destroy the whole earth.
So is Psalm 104 about Creation or the Flood?
It is actually about both, and more importantly it is about praising the Awesome Creator who is also the fearsome Judge and wonderful Provider, the One sovereignly responsible for both the pre-flood and the post-flood planet. So join me as we “Bless the Lord” for His greatness.
For more information see the questions:
NOAH’S FLOOD: Where did the water come from, and where did it go? Answer here.
NOAH’S FLOOD? How can you recognize rocks that have been laid down by a flood? Answer here.
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