Completing the first third of Psalm 104, our analysis takes another distinct turn in its point of reference: the topic becomes the ongoing natural order of the earth as determined by its Creator. If, however, we are correct in understanding Psalm 104:6-9 as a reference to the Flood of Noah’s day, we must also see God as Judge and King–thus His strong “rebuke” in Psalm 104:7. But, Psalm 104:10-12 (included in this update) reveals that God also restores, beautifies, and provides for the post-Flood world. An apt line comes to mind from Isaiah 61:3, “To give them beauty for ashes” (NKJV). And, what better way to describe beauty than to use beautiful Hebrew poetry?
Continuing with our analysis of Psalm 104, we soon discover that the exegetical evidence favors a change of topic at verse 6. The transition commences with mere implications–a delicate poetic transference that gradually prods the reader into a different direction. While arguments can be made to retain the topic of Creation, David takes the readers on a journey that begins with creation, but continues into a time between Creation and the present before bringing them into their own context in time. Subtle uses of both vocabulary, phraseology, and syntax make the excursion a continual delight.
Psalm 104 provides a break from the early psalms (Psalms 1-6) and from the Psalms of Ascents (Psalms 120-122). This psalm presents the poetic description of Creation as compared to the narrative of Genesis 1:1-2:3. An anonymous psalmist marked off this psalm’s 35 verses by means of an inclusio like that used in Psalm 103. As a psalm of praise, it exhibits hymnic participles. As Hebrew poetry the psalm displays many forms of imagery that enhance its beauty. Psalm 104 offers an interpretive challenge regarding its subject matter: does it refer only to Creation, or also to the Flood of Noah’s day? At what point in the psalm does the author move from Creation to either the Flood or to the natural processes observable at the present day? We begin with the first four verses.
Psalm 6:9-11 (Hebrew verse numbering) closes this psalm emphatically and dramatically. David’s depression has turned to triumphant confidence. His uncontrollable weeping and consuming fear finally disappear in his concentration upon Yahweh, his God. The Lord hears his weeping, hears his cry for a demonstration of divine grace, and accepts his prayer. What a glorious conclusion to those long, dark nights of agony!
Psalm 6:7-8 (Hebrew verse numbering) describe David’s personal situation in vivid metaphors. As a result of his sin and his illness he has grown exhausted, reduced to weeping, and obviously severely depressed. This stanza of the psalm displays an opening tricolor, assonance, emphatic word order, repetition, and metaphor–all skillfully woven together to present what might be the climactic moment in the poem.
Urgent. Impassioned. God-centered. David’s prayer in Psalm 6:5-6 (Hebrew verse numbering) displays all three of these characteristics. In addition, he uses the literary skills God gifted him with in order to emphasize these three. Then David moves into the realm of the ungodly who have died to emphasize the fact that only in this life can one repent–after death no one can repent and begin to praise or thank God.