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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  

Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  And It Was Good

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This study looks at God’s awesome creation from the standpoint of God’s greatness and His wisdom.  As we open our study in Psalm 104, we will see that the psalmist didn’t take God’s creation for granted. And neither should we!


Aug. 24

God’s Work of Creation


Aug. 31

Our Work With Creation















Everything in creation is the work of the God who loves us.


Psalm 104:1-5,24-30





God’s Creative Power (Psalm 104:1-5)

God’s Creative Wisdom (Psalm 104:24-26)

God’s Sustaining Love (Psalm 104:27-30)


Psalm 104 is anonymous, though it is possible that the author was David since he wrote several of the previous psalms.  If David was the author, then the psalm can be dated during his 40-year reign (about 1010—970 BC).  This psalm is one of many that celebrates in poetic form the truth that Yahweh, the God of Israel, is the creator of all things.  The first psalm that does this in the Book of Psalms is Psalm 8, and it is also the briefest.  The biblical authors looked back at the creation account in Genesis 1—2 on numerous occasions, calling God’s people to marvel at His power and worship Him for His goodness to us.   This psalm reaffirms that all creation testifies to the goodness and power of God. And while this psalm is based on Genesis 1:3-19, the apostle Paul testified in Romans 1:19-20 regarding the truth of the goodness and power of God through His creation. 

Overvies is adapted from the following source:

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


 We have lived for many years with the debate about the origins of the universe.  Did all this happen by chance, or was a Master Designer responsible?  More scientists are embracing the theory that an Intelligent Designer was behind the universe, even if they don’t understand completely what that means.  The Bible gives a clear picture of the One behind the universe.  Within the pages of the Bible, we can discover the all-powerful, all-wise, loving Creator God, as well as getting to know Him on a more personal basis.  In our study of Psalm 104, we will seek to come to a greater appreciation of God’s creative power and His awesome wisdom which He displayed in His creation. 

Introduction is adapted from the following source:

The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


God’s Creative Power (Psalm 104:1-5)

1 My soul, praise Yahweh! LORD my God, You are very great; You are clothed with majesty and splendor.  2 He wraps Himself in light as if it were a robe, spreading out the sky like a canopy,  3 laying the beams of His palace on the waters above, making the clouds His chariot, walking on the wings of the wind,  4 and making the winds His messengers, flames of fire His servants.  5 He established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken.








1.     Concerning the believer, what do the words “My soul,” imply (v. 1)?

2.     How would you describe what it’s like to praise the Lord with all that you are?

3.     What does the word praise mean (v. 1)?

4.     Why do you think God’s people are commanded so often to praise Him?

5.     Do you think we (believers) have to be commanded to praise God?  If so, why?

6.     How do you describe God’s greatness: with your lips; with your daily behavior?

7.     How would you define the difference between majesty and splendor (v. 1)? (See Digging Deeper.)

8.     How would you describe what it means to be clothed with majesty and splendor (v. 1)?

9.     In what way does light describe God’s character (v. 2)?  (See Digging Deeper.)

10.  What is the implication for a believer to be clothed in a robe of light (v. 2)?

11.  What comes to your mind with you look at the starry canopy in the heavens (v. 2)?

12.  What elements of the universe are explained in metaphorical fashion in verses 3-4?

13.  What picture of God’s majestic greatness do verses 3-5 paint for you?

14.  What are the earth’s foundations that are in view in verse 5?

15.  What words or phrases suggest to you that this psalm is a personal expression of praise?

16.  How would you summarize the psalmist’s acclamation concerning God in this passage?

17.  How did the psalmist’s use of elements of creation affirm the greatness of God?

18.  Using this passage of Scripture, how would you explain God’s majestic greatness to a non-believer?

19.  Why should believers praise God at all times?

20.  How can a believer develop an attitude of habitual Godly praise?


Lasting Lessons in Psalm 104:1-5:

1.  God’s people should praise Him at all times because of His greatness.

2.  God’s power can be seen in the vastness and complexity of His creation.



God’s Creative Wisdom (Psalm 104:24-26)

24 How countless are Your works, LORD! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your creatures.  25 Here is the sea, vast and wide, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small.  26 There the ships move about, and Leviathan, which You formed to play there.

1.     When the psalmist described God’s works as countless, what impact should that have on you, as a believer?

2.     How much of creation did the psalmist attribute to the Lord (v. 24)?

3.     What words in verse 24 support your answer?

4.     What word in verse 24 teaches us that creation came from an intentional design from God?

5.     In addition to the earth and the creatures of the land, what other elements of creation did the psalmist identify that witness to the greatness of God’s power and wisdom (v. 25)?

6.     How does science confirm the truth stated about marine life in verse 25?

7.     What is a Leviathan (see Digging Deeper), and why do you think the psalmist referred to it here?

8.     What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?  (See Digging Deeper.)

9.     How does knowing that God’s vast wisdom is beyond human description impact your daily life?

10.  How does this help us to understand David’s point in referring to God’s wisdom in creation?

11.  How is God’s wisdom reflected through His creation?

12.  How have you seen God’s wisdom reflected in the natural world?

13.  If God’s display of His wisdom is reflected through His creation, how much more should humankind rely of Him?

14.  What do you think is the main cause for people to ignore or disregard God’s wisdom for providing them with fullness of life?

15.  How often do you think about how dependent you are on your Creator, even for every breath you take?

16.  How often do you thank Him for sharing His wisdom with you?


Lasting Lessons in Psalm 104:24-26:

1.  Through His infinite power, God created all things.

2.  God’s wisdom determined the best things for Him to create.

3.  God’s people should praise Him for His wisdom and power.



God’s Sustaining Love (Psalm 104:27-30)

27 All of them wait for You to give them their food at the right time.  28 When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, they are satisfied with good things.  29 When You hide Your face, they are terrified; when You take away their breath, they die and return to the dust.  30 When You send Your breath, they are created, and You renew the face of the earth.

1.     To whom do you think this passage is applicable?  (See v. 24.)

2.     What does it mean to wait on the Lord?

3.     What do you think is God’s purpose for urging believers to “wait on the Lord”?

4.     What is the implication for the believer to “wait on the Lord”?

5.     How does waiting on the Lord impact your daily life (v. 27)?

6.     Do you think this is a difficult task? 

7.     If so, what makes it so difficult?

8.     What aspect of a believer’s life is in view in verses 27-28?

9.     What tragic truth from Genesis 3 does the death of animal life remind us about?

10.  Similarly, what does the term breath remind us about from the creation account?

11.  Based on this passage, how is creation dependent upon the Lord?

12.  What examples did the psalmist provide that confirm the Lord is dependable?

13.  What assertion did the psalmist make that affirms both life and death are under the Lord’s control (v. 29)?

14.  What does this passage tell us about the kind of relationship we should have with the Lord?


Lasting Lessons in Psalm 104:27-30:

1.  God provides food for His creatures to sustain them.

2.  We should trust in God to provide for our needs as well.

3.  Death was an intrusion into God’s perfect world as judgment for human sin, but God provided a remedy for sin through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ.



Everything in creation is the work of the God who loves us.  As you go through your daily routine, look around at God’s creation and spend some time considering that a loving God is behind it all and praise Him as He continues to sustain both His creation and His creatures.  Think about the kind of attitude you should have and maintain with this loving God.  Is my daily behavior please Him?  Does my behavior reflect a loving relationship with my Savior?  

So how much do you rely on God to supply your daily needs?  Does your daily relationship with Him one of thanksgiving?  On a scale of 1 (low) to 10 (high) how would you rate your attitude of thanksgiving toward the One who supplied your daily needs?  How did you rate?  Are you as thankful as you ought to be?  If not, what do you need for God to do to help you to become more thankful for all He does for you?  He will help you, if you ask Him!  Praise be to God!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



God’s Work of Creation — Lesson Outline & Commentary

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30:

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters: who maketh the clouds his chariot: who walketh upon the wings of the wind: 4 Who maketh his angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire: 5 Who laid the foundations of the earth, that it should not be removed for ever.

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches. 25 So is this great and wide sea, wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts. 26 There go the ships: there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein. 27 These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season. 28 That thou givest them they gather: thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good. 29 Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. 30 Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.  (KJV)

New International Version: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30:

Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 2 He wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters.  He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.

24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. 25 There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number—living things both large and small. 26 There the ships go to and fro, and the leviathan, which you formed to frolic there. 27 These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time. 28 When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. 29 When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. 30 When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.  (NIV)

New Living Translation: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30:

1 Let all that I am praise the LORD. O LORD my God, how great you are! You are robed with honor and majesty. 2 You are dressed in a robe of light. You stretch out the starry curtain of the heavens; 3 you lay out the rafters of your home in the rain clouds. You make the clouds your chariot; you ride upon the wings of the wind. 4 The winds are your messengers; flames of fire are your servants. 5 You placed the world on its foundation so it would never be moved.

24 O LORD, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures. 25 Here is the ocean, vast and wide, teeming with life of every kind, both large and small. 26 See the ships sailing along, and Leviathan, which you made to play in the sea. 27 They all depend on you to give them food as they need it. 28 When you supply it, they gather it. You open your hand to feed them, and they are richly satisfied. 29 But if you turn away from them, they panic. When you take away their breath, they die and turn again to dust. 30 When you give them your breath,£ life is created, and you renew the face of the earth.    (NLT)





God’s Creative Power (Psalm 104:1-5)

God’s Creative Wisdom (Psalm 104:24-26)

God’s Sustaining Love (Psalm 104:27-30)

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer’s Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Psalm 104:1-5,24-30

Psalm 104: Great Is Your Faithfulness to All Creation

The theme of Psalm 104 is God’s greatness in ruling and sustaining his vast creation. The form is a descriptive psalm of praise. Its theme and form are complementary to Psalm 103. Both psalms have similar beginnings and endings; indeed, both are hymnic in form. Psalm 103 praises the Redeemer-King, whereas this psalm magnifies the Creator-King. However, there is no internal ground for arguing that both psalms were written by the same author, as Kirkpatrick cautiously suggests (p. 604).

The poetic version of Creation is complementary to the prosaic of Genesis 1. Von Rad likens the teaching of Creation to an ancient Near Eastern literary form (onomasticon) describing the wonders of nature (OTT, 1:361). This begs the question of the interrelation of this psalm with Egyptian literature, particularly the Hymn of Atum, an Egyptian creation hymn. Though this matter has received extensive treatment (see Allen, pp. 28-30), any discussion on the literary association is complicated by the insufficient evidence of the cosmological framework and literature of the surrounding nations and, hence, by the tentativeness of any theory explaining the relations and possible polemical use of these materials. Zimmerli has analyzed the difference well by explaining that the sun is a part of Yahweh’s creative order and, instead, that Yahweh alone is resplendent in glory (OTTO, p. 39). Brueggemann treats it together with Psalms 8; 33; and 145 as “Songs of Creation” (Message of the Psalms pp. 28-38).

The structure is as follows:

A. In Praise of God’s Royal Splendor (vv. 1-4)

B. The Material Formation of the Earth (vv. 5-9)

C. The Glory of the Animal Creation (vv. 10-18)

D. The Regularity in the Created World (vv. 19-23)

C’. The Glory of the Animal Creation (vv. 24-26)

B’. The Spiritual Sustenance of the Earth (vv. 27-30)

A’. In Praise of God’s Royal Splendor (vv. 31-35)

In Praise of God’s Royal Splendor (104:1-4)

104:1. The exclamation “praise [lit., ‘bless,’ from b-r-k] the LORD” arises out of the heart of those who consider themselves blessed to know the covenant Redeemer-God, whose name is Yahweh (NIV, “the LORD”). The psalm begins and ends on the same note of praise (cf. v. 35). The Lord evokes praise by his works. Praise may take two forms of expression: direct (“you”) and indirect (“he”). The first occurs in the direct address of v. 1, where the focus is on the acts of God: “you do very greatly” (NIV, “you are very great”) and “you clothe yourself” (NIV, “you are clothed”; cf. 1 Tim 6:16). Both verbal expressions are active verbs, signifying God’s active involvement in the world and his expectation of recognition by his creation. The nouns “splendor and majesty” (cf. 96:6) amplify the royal nature of his rule. Yahweh is the Great King, who is known for his mighty acts and whose splendor is evident to all (cf. 8:1; 21:5; 93:1; 96:6).

104:2. The second form of expression of praise is in hymnic form, characterized by participles of the Hebrew verbs and the use of the third person. This preferably may be translated by relative sentences: “you ... who wraps ... who stretches,” etc. Thus the majesty of the Great King is revealed in his acts, and the acts of God occasion the hymn of Creation.

God is light. Light is vital to life; hence its primary importance places it as the first of the creative acts. In poetic fashion the psalmist portrays God as covered with light (cf. Hab 3:4). The light reveals something of the divine glory, because God is light (1 John 1:5). The second creative act is “the firmament” or “the heavens” described here as a “tent” stretched out over the earth (cf. Isa 40:22). As a camper readily pitches his tent somewhere, so God without exertion prepared the earth for habitation.

104:3-4. The imagery of the firmament gives occasion to reflect on the divine glory above the firmament (cf. Ps 29). The poet imagines how the Lord placed his palace in a choice location. The beams on the water above the firmament (cf. 29:3; 148:4; Gen 1:7) provide the support for his royal palace (“upper chambers,” v. 3). The “chambers,” built above the first story of a house for the purpose of privacy and seclusion (cf. 1 Kings 17:19; 2 Kings 4:10), represent God’s involvement with and separation from his world (Amos 9:6). This metaphor gives rise to the expression “The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; / the LORD is enthroned as King forever” (29:10).

The Lord’s involvement with the world of creation comes to expression in the imagery of the chariot, the clouds, the wind, and the flames of fire (vv. 3-4). He sovereignly controls the elements, as if he “rides” on a “chariot” (cf. 18:10), using the wind (cf. 18:10; Heb 1:7 [LXX]), clouds, and lightning (“flames of fire”) for his purposes. The winds and the lightning are his “messengers.” Since the Hebrew has the same word for “messengers” and “angels,” it is apparent that this psalm forms a whole with Psalm 103 (esp. vv. 20-22). The Lord is surrounded by his servants, whether they be created like the angels or be powers inherent in his created order (winds, lightning). The Creator-King is, as it were, driving his chariot, symbolic of his governance of his creation. All his created works reveal the splendor and wisdom of the Creator, because he remains constantly involved with his handiwork.

The Material Formation of the Earth (104:5-9)

104:5-6. These verses focus on the third day of Creation: the formation of the land (cf. Gen 1:9-10; cf. Job 38:8-11). The waters covered the whole earth (v. 6; cf. Gen 1:2), forming a vast “deep” (tehom). The mountains and valleys, characteristic of the dry land, were as yet covered as with “a garment.” The “foundations,” i.e., the solid material, were already there by divine creation (v. 5; cf. 24:2), but they awaited God’s act of separating the waters so as to make the dry land appear. The inspired poet is giving, not a scientific, but a poetic portrayal of Creation. He imagines the magnificence and splendor of God in his reflection on the vastness and depth of the physical creation.

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

104:24-26. The world of creation reveals the power, wisdom, and creative diversity of the Lord (v. 24). 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 of 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 man. The Lord provides for the great number of sea creatures that inhabit the seas in equal variety (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 (Baal legend, 1, i:1-3; see Notes on 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.

The literary approach of holistic interpretation espoused by Meir Weiss adds a new dimension to understanding v. 26. He proposes that the sea is the playground of Leviathan “to sport therein.” He derives from the etymology of the root l-w-h (“accompany”) an associative meaning: “a fish accompanying the vessels” (The Bible From Within. The Method of Total Interpretation [Jerusalem: Magnes, 1984], pp. 78-93).

The Spiritual Sustenance of the Earth (104:27-30)

104:27-30. The very source of the material well-being of God’s creation (cf. vv. 5-26) is the Lord. Nature is dependent on the Creator, looking to him for regular provision (v. 27). All creatures on earth and in the sea, wild and domesticated, birds and sea creatures, as well as man, have a sense of the spiritual power by whose favor they live (cf. 145:15-16; 147:9). They have their being in God (cf. Acts 17:24-25). The emphasis in vv. 28-30 is on God who acts: “you give ... you open your hand.... you hide... you take away.... you send ... you renew.” These acts reveal divine favor (also known as common grace) and disfavor (“hide your face”). The Lord gives and sustains life by his life-giving Spirit (v. 30). But he also takes away the life-spirit from his creatures (v. 29; NIV, “their breath,” lit., “their spirit”; cf. Gen 2:7; 6:17). This is what Bernard W. Anderson calls creatio continua: “Creation is not just an event that occurred in the beginning, at the foundation of the earth, but is God’s continuing activity of sustaining creatures and holding everything in being” (“Introduction: Mythopoetic and Theological Dimensions of Biblical Creation Faith,” Creation in the Old Testament ed. Bernard W. Anderson [Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984], p. 14). More usually this activity of God is referred to as Providence.

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers


Believer's Bible Commentary: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30

Psalm 104: Creator and Sustainer

Think of what must be involved in running cities like New York or London or Tokyo with their millions of inhabitants. Complex organizations administer the water department, the housing department, the food supplies and all the other essential services.

But then think how infinitely more complex is God's task of managing the world in which we live. There is the problem of supplying water for all His creatures. There is the immense logistical task of providing food for men, beasts, birds and fish. There is the matter of housing and shelter. It can only give us great thoughts of God to meditate on Him as the Creator and Sustainer of this vast world of nature.

104:1-3.  After summoning every part of his being to extol the Lord, the unnamed psalmist gives one of those great descriptions of God that must have inspired Michelangelo. It has to be understood as figurative language, because how else can you describe the invisible God or capture His infinite greatness with finite words?

As he stands and gazes and wonders, the psalmist exclaims, "O Lord my God, You are very great!" Then the details of the theophany (an appearance of God) pour forth. God has robed Himself in garments of inexpressible splendor and majesty. He has covered Himself with light as with a garment, a symbol of His absolute purity and righteousness. He spreads the stellar and atmospheric heavens over the earth like a curtain—a work that boggles the mind by its immensity. The watery cloud-cover over the earth forms the foundation on which the pillars of the heavens were set. Scudding across the sky, the clouds are the chariot of Jehovah, borne along on the wings of the wind.

104:4.  Who makes His angels spirits, His ministers a flame of fire. Since the Hebrew uses the same word for wind and spirit and another word means both angel and messenger, this may be translated: "Who makes winds His messengers, a flame of fire His ministers." This fits the nature context nicely, but the quotation of this verse in the context of Hebrews 1:7 requires the traditional translation. (The Greek language has the same sets of double meanings, so it applies in both Testaments.)

104:5-9. It becomes evident as we move through the Psalm that we are re-living the days of creation in Genesis 1, although some of the days are not as distinctly referred to as others. The psalmist marvels at the providential arrangements of God for His creatures and especially for man.

First, he recalls how God formed the earth on invisible foundations so that it would provide a stable, unshakable surface for habitation. At the outset, the entire earth was covered with waters so deep that even the mountains were submerged. On the third day God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear" (Gen. 1:9). Immediately the waters beat a hasty retreat. The mountains and valleys appeared in the locations which God had prearranged for them. The seas and oceans were formed with distinct boundaries so that they would not invade the dry land.

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.

104:27-30. Though they may not be conscious of it, all living organisms depend on God for their food. As He supplies it, they gather it in. He opens His hand and they are abundantly filled. In verse 13, the earth is satisfied with the results of God's work in sending the rain. In verse 16 the trees are full of sap. And now all creatures are filled.

An inescapable fact of God's economy is that death strikes down one generation, and a new one is raised up to take its place. When animals die, either by violence or through age, it is as if God were hiding His face. But at the same time that these fall and return to... dust, God sends forth His Spirit and repopulates the earth with what seems like a fresh creation. On the one hand there is a constant wasting away, on the other hand a continual renewal of the face of the earth.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30

104:1-4. Verse 1 would be normal in structure if the initial invocation were omitted, and as v. 35 would also be complete without it, the suggestion that it is, in both verses, a liturgical addition is plausible. The verse sums up the whole of the creative act in one grand thought. In that act, the invisible God has arrayed himself in splendor and glory, making visible these inherent attributes. That is the deepest meaning of creation. The universe is the garment of God.

This general idea lays the foundation for the following picture of the process of creation which is colored by reminiscences of Genesis. Here, as there, light is the first-born of heaven, but the influence of the preceding thought shapes the language, and light is regarded as God’s vesture. The uncreated light, who is darkness to our eyes, arrays himself in created light, which reveals while it veils Him. Everywhere diffused, all-penetrating, all-gladdening, it tells of the presence in which all creatures live. This clause is the poetic rendering of the work of the first creative day. The next clause in like manner deals with that of the second. The mighty arch of heaven is lifted and expanded over earth, as easily as a man draws the cloth or skin sides and canopy of his circular tent over its framework. But our roof is his floor, and according to Genesis the firmament (literally, “expanse”) separates the waters above from those beneath. So the Psalm pictures the divine Architect as laying the beams of his upper chambers (for so the word means) in these waters, above the tent roof. The fluid is solid at his will, and the most mobile becomes fixed enough to be the foundation of his royal abode. The custom of having chambers on the roof, for privacy and freshness, suggests the image.

104:5. In these introductory verses, the poet is dealing with the grander instances of creative power, especially as realized in the heavens. Not until v. 5 does he drop to earth. His first theme is God’s dominion over the elemental forces, and so he goes on to represent the clouds as his chariot, the wind as bearing Him on its swift pinions, and, as the parallelism requires, the winds as his messengers, and devouring fire as his servants. The rendering of v. 4 adopted in Hebrews from the Septuagint is less relevant to the psalmist’s purpose of gathering all the forces which sweep through the wide heavens into one company of obedient servants of God than that adopted above and now generally recognized. It is to be observed that the verbs in vv. 2ff are participles, which express continuous action. These creative acts were not done once for all, but are going on still and always. Preservation is continued in creation.

104:24. The picture of earth and its inhabitants is now complete, and the dominant thought which it leaves on the psalmist’s heart is cast into the exultant and wondering exclamation of v. 24. The variety as well as multitude of the forms in which God’s creative idea is embodied, the wisdom which shapes all, his ownership of all, are the impressions made by the devout contemplation of nature. The scientist and the artist are left free to pursue their respective lines of investigation and impression, but scientist and artist must rise to the psalmist’s point of view, if they are to learn the deepest lesson from the ordered kingdoms of nature and from the beauty which floods the world.

104:25-26. With the exclamation in v. 24, the psalmist has finished his picture of the earth, which he had seen as if emerging from the abyss and watched as it was gradually clothed with fertility and peopled with happy life. He turns, in vv. 25f, to the other half of his vision of creation and portrays the gathered and curbed waters which he now calls the “sea.” As always in Scripture, it is described as it looks to a landsman, gazing out on it from the safe shore. The characteristics specified betray unfamiliarity with maritime pursuits. The psalmist is struck by the far-stretching roll of the waters out to the horizon, the mystery veiling the strange lives swarming in its depths and the extreme contrasts in the magnitude of its inhabitants. He sees the stately ships sail. The introduction of these into the picture is unexpected. We should have looked for an instance of the “small” creatures, to pair off with the great one, leviathan, in the next words.

104:27-30. Verses 27-30 mass all creatures of earth and sea, including man, as being dependent on God for sustenance and for life. Dumbly, these look expectant to Him, although man only knows to whom all living eyes are directed. The swift clauses in vv. 28ff, without connecting particles, vividly represent the divine acts as immediately followed by the creatural consequences. To this psalmist, the links in the chain were of little consequence. His thoughts were fixed on its two ends—the hand that sent its power thrilling through the links and the result realized in the creature’s life. All natural phenomena are issues of God’s present will. Preservation is as much his act, as inexplicable without Him, as creation. There would be nothing to “gather” unless He “gave.” All sorts of supplies, which make the “good” of physical life, are in his hand, whether they be the food of the wild goats by the streams or of the conies among the cliffs or of the young lions in the night or of leviathan tumbling amidst the waves or of toiling man. Nor is it only the nourishment of life which comes straight from God to all, but life itself depends on his continual in-breathing. His face is creation’s light; breath from Him is its life. The withdrawal of it is death. Every change in creatural condition is wrought by Him. He is the only fountain of life, and the reservoir of all the forces that minister to life or to inanimate being. But the psalmist will not end his contemplations with the thought of the fair creation returning to nothingness. He adds another verse (v. 30), which reads “thou renewest the face of the earth.” Individuals pass, and the type remains. New generations spring up. The yearly miracle of spring brings greenness over the snow-covered or brown pastures and green begins to shoot from stiffened boughs. Many of last year’s birds are dead, but there are nests in the cypresses and twitterings among the branches in the wadies. Life, not death, prevails in God’s world.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.



Leviathan—Leviathan in Psalm 104:26 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word livyathan, which comes from a root meaning “to twist” or “to writhe.”  This lends itself to the view that Leviathan is a large reptile, perhaps a serpent or a crocodile.  In Ugantic, an ancient language very similar to Hebrew, the related word lotan refers to a monster of mythical proportions.  The term leviathan  occurs five more times in the Old Testament (Job 3:8; 41:1; Ps. 74:14; Isa. 27:1 [twice]), and its use in Psalm 74:14 may refer to the fierce Nile crocodile that the psalmist used as a metaphor for Egypt.  Taking the description of Leviathan in Job in a literal fashion has led some interpreters in modern times to see a reference to a dinosaur that literally breathed fire (see Job 41:18-20), perhaps the 30- to 82 foot Liopleurodon.1  No matter which one is specifically in view, the six uses of the term in Scripture clearly refer to a large and dangerous creature, one that God created by His own power but that terrified mortal men.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Leviathan: The name of this ancient sea creature is variously understood.  In ancient legends leviathan (v. 26) was a sea monster that warred with the gods and threatened the orderliness of the creation.  Thus, even in some biblical literature the leviathan represents an enemy of the Lord God.  However, in other references leviathan seems to refer to a large sea creature, perhaps a whale, a massive alligator, or some other serpent-like creature of the deep.  In Psalm 104:6 leviathan is a creation of God, viewed as a pet frolicking in the waters of the sea.  It is not to be feared, for it is under God’s control.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

LEVIATHAN (Lih vi' uh thuhn):  Name of an ancient sea creature subdued by God meaning “coiled one.” Leviathan appears in biblical and extra-biblical literature. A serpentine form is indicated in Isaiah 27:1 (“leviathan the piercing [KJV] serpent”).

The sea creature is used interchangeably with other mysterious creations of the divine. Again, Isaiah 27:1 refers to leviathan as “the dragon that is in the sea.” The psalmist in 74:14 presents leviathan among the supernatural enemies of God dwelling in the sea with many heads. Job 3:8; 41:1-9 present the sea creature as too formidable a foe for a person to consider arousing. Yet, leviathan was created by God and subject to Him (Ps. 104:24-30).

Apocalyptic literature depicts leviathan as throwing off his fetters at the end of the present age, only to be defeated in a final conflict with the divine. See Apocalyptic. Ugaritic literature of Ras Shamra during the 1300s B.C. depicts the mythical Baal defeating the sea creature called Lotan (another linguistic form for Leviathan). The Hittites wrote of a struggle between the dragon Illuyankas and the mortal Hupasiyos. A cylinder seal found at Tel Asmar dated about 2350 B.C. shows two men fighting a seven-headed serpent.

Leviathan was seen in ancient legend as a sea monster engaged in primordial warfare with the gods. This creature represented chaos in a personified manner which any creator deity had to overcome in order to create. Leviathan was also seen as a threat to the orderliness of the universe and ultimately to be subdued at the end of time.

The ancient pagan myths concerning Leviathan were familiar to the Hebrews of the Old Testament. To what degree these myths of Leviathan influenced the Hebrews, if any, may never be known. Scripture used the name known to so many people and removed fear connected with it, showing God easily controlled Leviathan, who thus offered no threat to God’s people.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

WISDOM AND WISE MEN:  An educated class of people responsible for preserving and transmitting the culture and learning of the society. Though wisdom and the wise men who perpetuated it have been around almost as long as have people, the study of wisdom in the Ancient Near East is a relatively new endeavor. This has been due, in part, to a lack of a clear definition of the term wisdom, as well as the difficult nature of the poetic language within which most of the wisdom material has been found. Sad to say, neither of these issues is completely solved today though much has been learned in recent years.

Real Wisdom Is the Fear of God: Three basic definitions of wisdom summarize the status of the field of study very well. Note that the first two of these definitions are quite secular in nature while the third is religious.

First, wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. Apparently, ancient persons learned very early that there was an orderliness to the world in which they lived. They also learned that success and happiness came from living in accordance with that orderliness (Prov. 22:17-24:22). Second, wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Certainly, much of the Books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (see particularly Job 30:29-31). Third, though the other definitions might include this, it seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual, for life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly, in this sense wisdom comes from God (Prov. 2:6). Thus, though it will involve observation and instruction, it really begins with God and one’s faith in Him as Lord and Savior (Prov. 1:7; Job 28:28).

The Wise Men Preserved This Wisdom: Though at first such wisdom was probably the responsibility of the patriarch or head of the clan, it appears that every ancient culture developed a distinct class of people, the ahakam or sages, who were responsible for the creating and preserving of their wisdom. No doubt these people were part of the more educated group of their societies who could read and write and had the economic freedom to do so.

Certainly Israel was no exception. The first clear reference to wise men in the biblical text is the one about Ahithophel and Hushai during the reign of David (2 Sam. 16:15-17:23). However, during Solomon’s day, the wisdom movement took on a whole new significance, for Solomon and his court became world renowned for their wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34; 10). Certainly his reign became known as the “golden age” of Israelite culture (Luke 12:27).

Though the movement became less visible during the early part of the divided monarchy, it was still quite active, for Hezekiah’s wise men were very concerned about preserving the wisdom tradition for future generations (Prov. 25:1). Later still, Jeremiah’s enemies even confronted him regarding his prophecy that the Law would perish from the priests, the prophets, and the sages (Jer. 18:18). Thus, clearly by the fall of Judah, the sage had taken his place as one of the key leaders in Israelite society.

No doubt, as the role of the prophet became less visible during the intertestamental period, the role of the sage and the priest became more prominent (see particularly Ecclesiasticus 38:24-39:11). Apparently, this development continued right on into the New Testament era where the magi (or sage) announced the birth of Christ (Matt. 2:1-12) who became the greatest of all wisdom teachers (Matt. 12:42; 13:54; Mark 6:2).

Most Wisdom Is in Poetic Form: Most of the Ancient Near Eastern wisdom material has been found in some type of poetic structure. Until recent years these structures have been a mystery because they did not seem to rhyme either in meter or sound as modern languages do. However, in A.D. 1753 Bishop Robert Lowth unlocked the key to such poetic writing when he discovered that Hebrew poetry rhymed in thought. Moreover, he surmised that such thoughts were most commonly expressed in parallel patterns. Some of these patterns expressed the same thoughts (Prov. 20:1), while others expressed opposing thoughts (Prov. 10:1), or developed a given thought (Prov. 31:10-31). In time, these parallel patterns were structured into specific forms such as the proverb, riddle, allegory, hymn, disputation, autobiographical narrative, didactic narrative, and lists. No doubt, such beautiful and intricate poetic structure was clearly a mark of the sage and the wisdom schools of his day and age. See Poetry.

Wisdom Became the Guide for Daily Living: Though in recent years many parts of the sacred Scripture have been considered under wisdom’s umbrella, no doubt the greatest contribution of Israel’s sages has been the three books found in the “writings” (Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes). However, certain of the other “writings” such as the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and Lamentations contain figures of speech and stylized forms reflective of the wisdom tradition. In addition to these, the intertestamental works of Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon continued the tradition and laid an excellent foundation for the ultimate revelation of wisdom in Christ Jesus (Matt. 11:19; Luke 11:49-51; Col. 1:15-20; 1 Cor. 1:24, 30; Rev. 5:12). See Intertestamental History; Apocrypha; Pseudepigrapha.

Certainly, biblical wisdom like that of other cultures emphasizes the success and well-being of the individual. This is visible not only in the topics it chooses to deal with, but also in the way it deals with them. Some of its major topics are: knowledge, the world, justice, virtue, family, and faith. The greatest of these may be faith which is constantly watching over wisdom and really all of life (Prov. 1:7).

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

KNOWLEDGE: Translation of several Hebrew and Greek words covering a wide range of meanings: intellectual understanding, personal experience, emotion, and personal relationship (including sexual intercourse, Gen. 4:1, etc.). Knowledge is attributed both to God and to human beings.

God’s knowledge is said to be omniscient . He knows all things (Job 21:22; Ps. 139:1-18); His understanding is beyond measure (Ps. 147:5). He knows the thoughts of our minds and the secrets of our hearts (Ps. 44:21; 94:11). He knows past events (Gen. 30:22), present happenings (Job 31:4), and future events (Zech. 13:1; Luke 1:33).

The knowledge which God has of nations and human beings indicates that He has a personal interest—not merely an awareness—of people (Ps. 144:3). To be known by God may mean that a nation or individual is chosen by God to play a part in God’s purposes in the world (Jer. 1:5; Amos 3:2; Gal. 4:9).

The Bible speaks often about human knowledge. Knowledge of God is the greatest knowledge (Prov. 9:10) and is the chief duty of humankind (Hos. 6:6). In the Old Testament, the Israelites know God through what He does for His people (Ex. 9:29; Lev. 23:43; Deut. 4:32-39; Ps. 9:10; 59:13; 78:16; Hos. 2:19-20). This knowledge of God is not simply theoretical or factual knowledge; it includes experiencing the reality of God in one’s life (compare Phil. 3:10) and living one’s life in a manner that shows a respect for the power and majesty of God (compare Jer. 22:15-16).

In the New Testament one knows God through a knowledge of Jesus Christ (John 8:19; Col. 2:2-3). The apostle Paul closely connected knowledge to faith. Knowledge gives direction, conviction, and assurance to faith (2 Cor. 4:14). Knowledge is a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:8) which can grow, increase, be filled, and abound (Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:9-10; 2 Cor. 8:7). It consists in having a better understanding of God’s will in the ethical sense (Col. 1:9-10; Phil. 1:9), of knowing that God desires to save people (Eph. 1:8-9), and of having a deeper insight into God’s will given in Christ (Eph. 1:17; 3:18-19).

But though Paul recognized the importance of knowledge, he also knew that it could be a divisive factor in churches such as at Rome and Corinth where some Christians claimed to be more spiritual because of their knowledge of spiritual matters (Rom. 14:1-15:6; 1 Cor. 8:1-13). Paul argued that knowledge puffs up but love builds up, and the knowledge exercised by the “strong” in faith could cause the “weak” in faith to go against their Christian conscience and lead to their spiritual ruin. Knowledge can be misused (1 Cor. 8). Love is more important than knowledge (1 Cor. 13), yet knowledge is still a gift, necessary for Christian teaching (1 Cor. 14:6) and for Christian growth toward a mature faith (1 Cor. 8:7; 2 Pet. 1:5-6; 3:18).

In the Gospel of John, knowledge is a key concept, although the noun “knowledge” itself never occurs in John’s Gospel. John instead frequently uses the verbs “to know.” Jesus and the Father have a mutual knowledge (John 10:14-15), and Jesus’ knowledge of God is perfect (John 3:11; 4:22; 7:28-29, for example). Jesus brings to lost humankind the knowledge of God which is necessary for salvation (John 7:28-29; 8:19), but which humankind has distorted through sin (John 1:10). God’s knowledge of Jesus consists of giving Jesus His mission and the power to perform it (John 10:18). Jesus’ knowledge of the Father consists of His hearing God’s word and obediently expressing it to the world.

Knowledge of God is closely related to faith, expressing the perception and understanding of faith. Full knowledge is possible only after Jesus’ glorification, since the disciples sometimes failed to understand Jesus (John 4:32; 10:6; 12:16). In John, knowledge is expressed in Christian witness which may evoke belief in Jesus (John 1:7; 4:39; 12:17-18) and in love (John 17:26). Whereas Jesus’ knowledge of the Father is direct, the disciples’ knowledge of Jesus is indirect, qualified by believing. The Christian’s knowledge of Jesus is the perception of Jesus as the revelation of God which leads to obedience to His word of love. So the Christian is caught up into God’s mission of love to the world in order that the world may come to know and believe in Jesus as the revelation of the Father’s love for the world.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

Majesty: 1 impressive stateliness, dignity, or beauty. 2 royal power. A title given to a sovereign or a sovereign’s wife or widow.

SOURCE: Concise Oxford Dictionary; Tenth Edition; Oxford University Press

Splendid:  1 magnificent; very impressive.  2 informal, excellent.

SOURCE: Concise Oxford Dictionary; Tenth Edition; Oxford University Press

LIGHT, LIGHT OF THE WORLD: That which penetrates and dispels darkness. The concept of “light” appears numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. God created light (Gen. 1:3). However, a careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the physical entity that we call “light” is actually only the second form of light in the universe, since everywhere the Bible declares that God Himself is light. Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is my light.” In Psalm 104:2, the psalmist testified of the Lord who “covered himself” in light. In John 8:12 Jesus, the God-man, said, “I am the light of the world.” Such expressions make at least two things abundantly clear. First, the origin of light rests with God. Second, in some sense God Himself is the very essence of light. Such statements do not suppose that God is light and nothing more, but they do stress that God is the ultimate source of all knowing and understanding. To this end Psalm 119:105 informs us that God’s Word is a “light” to one’s path. Here the emphasis lies upon perception and understanding gained when darkness is dispelled and light revealed.

This last concept becomes even clearer in John 3:19; people love darkness better than light, because their deeds are evil. Such statements reveal that the character of light is to reveal and to provide understanding and purity, while the opposite of light or darkness is designed to obscure, to deceive, and to harbor impurity.

A small problem confronts the interpreter who discovers that Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 5:14, “Ye are the light of the world.” Yet in John 8:12, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” What appears to be a contradiction is not one at all. The moon provides light for the earth just as the sun does. Yet, the actual source of light for both the sun and the moon is the sun. The moon only reflects the light of the sun. By the same token, Jesus, the God-man, is the source of all light. His disciples become reflectors in a darkened world, transmitting through their lives the true light of the eternal Son of God.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

FOUNDATION: That on which a building is built; the first layer of a structure that provides a stable base for the superstructure. Bedrock was the preferred foundation (Matt. 7:24). The best alternative was a solid platform of close-fitting cut stone (1 Kings 5:17). Modest homes had foundations of rough stone. Generally, building sites were leveled by filling in the foundation trenches with gravel or small stones. Often, the foundation is all that remains of ancient structures. The prohibition of laying a foundation for Jericho (Josh. 6:26) was a prohibition of rebuilding the city as a fortified site rather than of inhabiting the place. The splendor of the new Jerusalem is pictured in its foundation of precious stones (Isa. 54:11; Rev. 21:19).

The Old Testament pictured the earth (dry land) as resting on foundations (2 Sam. 22:16; Ps. 18:15; 82:5). God is pictured as a builder who marked out the foundations (Prov. 8:29) and set the stone (Ps. 104:5). The mountains (Deut. 32:22; Ps. 18:7) and the vault of the heavens (2 Sam. 22:8; Job 26:11) are also pictured as resting on foundations. God’s great power is expressed in the images of the earth’s foundations trembling (Isa. 24:18) or being exposed (2 Sam. 22:16) before the Almighty. “From the foundations of the earth” means from the time of creation (Isa. 40:21; Matt. 13:35; John 17:24).

Christ’s teaching is compared to a rock solid foundation (Matt. 7:24; Luke 6:48). Foundation serves as a metaphor for the initial preaching of the Gospel (Rom. 15:20; Heb. 6:1-2 which outlines the foundational topics), for the apostles and prophets as the first generation of preachers (Eph. 2:20; compare Rev. 21:14, 19); and for Christ as the content of preaching (1 Cor. 3:10-11).

The foundations of Psalms 11:3 are the foundations of life, security, community, justice, and religion. To lay a good foundation for the future (1 Tim. 6:19) is to be generous and ready to share. The foundation of 2 Timothy 2:19 is an enigma. The context suggests that God’s foundation is the core of true believers known only to God. Other suggestions include Christ, God’s work, the church, Christ’s teaching, and God’s eternal law.

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




God “Created” A Word Study

By T. Van McClain

T. Van McClain is professor of Old Testament and Hebrew and director of library services at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary, Northeast Campus, Schenectady, New York.


OUNG EARTH CREATIONISTS believe the universe is likely 6,000 to 10,000 years old and reject evolution as an explanation for the human species.  Old Earth Creationists generally hold that the earth is billions of years old, and they also often reject evolution.  Those who affirm Intelligent Design would argue that scientific evidence supports the belief in a Creator God.  The BioLogos Foundation, for instance, argues that God did create the universe, but they also accept the processes of evolution as the explanation for how He created life.  Opinions by Christians about how and when God created the universe are quite varied.

While all Christians may not agree on the details of how God created the universe and life, all believers would agree that He is the Creator of it all.  The Hebrew word to express creation first occurs in Genesis 1:1 and is the word bara’.  Other Hebrew verbs (such as yasar, meaning “to fashion something”) serve as synonyms of bara’.  The term bara’ is unique, though, in that it “emphasizes the initiation of [an] object.”1

God’s Initial Work of Creation

Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”2  God is always the subject of this Hebrew verb when it means “create.”  Said one Old Testament theologian and professor:

The scope of the use of the verb bara’ is greatly limited.  It is used exclusively to denote divine creation . . . . As a special theological term, bara’ is used to express clearly the incomparability of the creative work of God in contrast to all secondary products and likenesses made from already existing material by man.3

In English we can use the same verb in two sentences and the context will help determine the intensity of the action.  For instance, we can say, “He closed the door.”  Or, if someone slammed a door, we might say, “He didn’t just close the door; he CLOSED the door!”  The second describes a more intense action.  Similarly, Hebrew also uses variations to indicate action intensity.  Some Old Testament passages use bara’ to show intense action, and the verb means “to cut down” (Josh. 17:15,18; Ezek. 23:47).  God is not the subject of the verb in these few verses, and these passages may have actually used a word similar to bara’.  (Remember that Hebrews does not have vowels.)  Or, bara’ originally may have meant “to cut, divide,” although this is by no means certain.  In contrast, when the Hebrew text uses the less intense form of the verb bara’, it always means “to create.”4  The etymology of the word is quite disputed, as it occurs seldom if ever in the other Semitic languages.5  As with many English words, when the Hebrew Old Testament uses bara’, context is generally more helpful than etymology in determining the meaning.

The first chapter of Genesis uses the verb bara’ in only three verses.  In Genesis 1:1, the context indicates that God created the universe ex nihilo or “out of nothing.”  Such action is beyond human capabilities.  “The use of the term . . . strongly supports the nuance of ‘bringing into existence’ . . . without the utilization of previous material.”6  Other passages also affirm creation as ex nihilo.  The writer of Hebrews wrote, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by God’s command, so that what is seen has been made from things that are not visible” (Heb. 11:3; compare Ps. 33:6,9; Col. 1:16).  In fact, the statement in Genesis 1:1 that God created the heavens and the earth is a way of saying God created the total universe.  This does not mean, however, that bara’ always means “create out of nothing,” as I will discuss below.

The next two usages of the word bara’ in Genesis chapter one highlight the creation of life, both animal and human life.  Genesis 1:21 highlights the creation of animal life: “So God created the large sea-creatures and every living creature that moves and swarms in the water, according to their kinds.  He also created every winged bird according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good.”  Likewise, Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female.”  The use of bara’ with reference to living creatures indicates that God affirms the value of animal life.  They are a special creation of God.

The use of bara’ with reference to the creation of man indicates the special value that God places on humanity.  In fact, man is the Lord’s highest creation, for man is created in His image.  God formed (created) man from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7)—a clear indication that bara’ in this instance does not mean to create out of nothing.

Continuous Creation Work

God’s creative work did not end with what we see in Genesis.  The word bara’ actually appears more times in the Book of Isaiah than any other Old Testament book, including Genesis.  Isaiah promised that the creative work of God would be at work in the coming Messianic Age (Isa. 4:5).  Much of the Book of Isaiah was written as a comfort for the people of Israel who would be in exile.  Throughout the book, Isaiah reminded his readers that the Lord was the Creator.  He further explained that just as the Creator God could fashion the universe, so He would give His Servant for a new covenant in the future, not only for Israel but also for the Gentiles (42:5-7).

Also, the Book of Psalms uses bara’ in a couple of ways that highlight God’s continued creative work.  Psalm 102:18 says, “This will be written for a later generation, and a newly created people will praise the Lord.”  Does this phrase “a newly created people” mean that God creates every soul out of nothing at each person’s conception?  Some would answer affirmatively, and this view is known as “creationism.”  Others would suggest that parents pass down the soul just as they pass down the body to their child.  This view, called “traducianism,” teaches that human beings propagate whole beings—body and soul.  With traducianism, each person is still a result of the creative work of God.  Supporters of traducianism hold to this view, arguing that the essential idea in creation is to bring something into existence that had not previously existed.  Each view has its strengths and weaknesses, and notable theologians have not agreed on the best way to answer the question of how God creates each soul.7

Also in Psalms, David prayed, “God, create a clean heart for me and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Ps. 51:10).  David’s request affirmed his dependency on God’s continued creative work.

God will still create a clean heart in one’s life today, if that person will only call on Him.  David was asking that his heart be cleansed of sin; that cleansing is available for all who will place their faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Future Work of Creation

All of those who have placed their faith in Christ will take part in God’s future work of creation.  Isaiah 65:17 says, “For I will create a new heaven and a new earth; the past events will not be remembered or come to mind.”  The promise of a new heaven and a new earth that are made up of the redeemed people of God is one of the greatest promises of God’ Word.  Just as scholars disagree regarding God’s initial creation and how that took place, they also disagree as to how and when God will create this new heaven and new earth that Isaiah promised.  Will it immediately follow the second coming of Christ, or will it immediately follow the millennial reign of Christ on earth?  However God brings it to pass, the re-creation or new creation of the heavens and earth will usher in a place of indescribable peace and joy, where believers are finally delivered from the presence of sin.                                   Bi

1.   Thomas E. McComiskey, (bara’, to create) in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 1:127.

2.   Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

3.   Karl-Heinz Bernhardt, “bara’: Ill. Meaning” (bara’, to create) in Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament [TDOT], ed. G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, trans. John T. Willis, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 246.

4.   McComiskey, (bara’, to create), 1:127.

5.   Bernhardt, “bara’: II. 1. Etymology” (bara’, to create) in TDOT, 245.

6.   T. V. Farris, Mighty To Save: A Study in Old Testament Soteriology (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1993), 21.

7.   For a fuller description of creationism and traducianism, see Wayne Greudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine  (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 484-86.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 39, No. 4; Summer 2013.


The Seas as Divine Imagery

By Thomas Goodman

Thomas Goodman is pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas.

GIFTED BIBLE TEACHERS will use analogies and illustrations drawn from their students’ lives. Some churches will even use a clip from a popular movie to drive home a Bible lesson, while acknowledging that the film in its entirety may not accurately portray God’s character or the biblical lifestyle.

This teaching tool is actually quite ancient. The biblical writers sometimes drew from the titles and exploits of the gods of Israel’s neighbors to illustrate the glory of the true God. When the Israelites were attracted to the beliefs and practices of the surrounding culture, the biblical writers showed that the true God better deserved the titles and far exceeded the exploits of the gods in the stories of Israel’s neighbors.

Neighboring Stories of Chaos and Control

In his 1895 German-language book Creation and Chaos Hermann Gunkel coined the term Chaoskampf to describe the motif of a god battling against chaos. He believed that the motif in the Babylonian creation account was the source of similar imagery in the Old Testament. In the myth, the god Marduk defeated the goddess Tiamat and posted guards to keep her destructive waters at bay. In a culture that believed the earth was in the center of great waters—above it and below it as well as around it—a god who could make these waters life-giving instead of destructive was the hero of the story.

But further discoveries have proven that the fight against-chaos concept is not limited to Babylon. In fact, after examining the cosmic conflict lore of seven civilizations, Mary Wakeman concluded that they are all essentially “about the same thing.”1 The Israelites would have had interaction with Canaanite religious stories earlier and more frequently than Babylonian stories. Among the Canaanites, the fight is against Yam, the region’s (and the Hebrews’) word for “sea.” The hero is Baal, the storm god. In one drawing found at the archaeological site of Ugarit, Baal is pictured as standing erect, a lightning flash like a spear in hand, and beneath his feet are turbulent waves that represent the sea he has vanquished.2 In the Canaanite story, with the defeated waters no longer a threat, Baal used them to provide life to the earth.3

The True God’s Conquest of the Menacing Sea

Knowing that these convictions were held by the cultures surrounding Israel, some might find it striking how often the Bible refers to the fact that God has the waters in subjection. In the Book of Psalms alone, as many as 26 psalms use this image.4 For example, Psalm 29 compares God’s voice to successive claps of thunder; verse 3 exclaims His sovereign voice over the waters. Likewise, in Psalm 93:3-4, the poet expressed his confidence in God’s sovereign control over the seas. In Psalm 74:13-15 (NIV) the poet explicitly celebrated God’s victory over Leviathan, the many-headed serpentine monster that assisted Yam.5 Again Psalm 89:9-10 makes reference to God’s rule over the sea and His victory over another Canaanite sea monster, Rahab.6

The image of God’s battle against the chaotic force of the sea is outside the Psalms as well. For example, in Proverbs 8 the personified “Wisdom” says in verse 29 (NLT): “I was there when he set the limits of the seas, so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.”7

The images of a divine battle against the raging sea were employed in a variety of settings—celebrating what God had done in the past (particularly in the creation and the exodus), appealing to God for help in the present, and promising God’s people a future where evil would be destroyed forever.

Past:  For example, Psalm 104 uses the conflict over-chaos motif to celebrate what God did in creating the world.8 When the poet declared that God “makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind” in verse 3 (NIV), he used the same imagery to describe the Lord that Canaanites used to describe Baal, “the Rider in the Clouds.”9 And, just as the Canaanites taught of Baal, the poet spoke of God taming the menacing waters (vv. 6-9) so that He might use them to bless His creatures (vv. 6b-13):

“The waters stood above the mountains. But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. He makes springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beasts of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the air nest by the waters; they sing among the branches. He waters the mountains from his upper chambers; the earth is satisfied by the fruit of his work (NIV).

In addition to employing these images in celebrating God’s activity in creation, the images also celebrated the crossing of the sea in the exodus story. So, the poet said God “rebuked” the sea so that His people could escape Pharaoh in Psalm 106:9, the people are called on to give thanks to the God who “divided the Red Sea asunder” in Psalm 136:13 (NIV; compare Ps.74:13), and the poet said the waters “writhed” and “convulsed” at the sight of God in Psalm 77:16 (NIV).10 In Isaiah 51:9-10, the poet explicitly compared the exodus victory to God’s victory over the sea monster Rahab.

Present:  In addition, the conflict-over-chaos images were used to celebrate the fact that Jerusalem (for example, Ps. 46:1-3) and its king (for example, Ps. 89) would be able to withstand the threats of enemies. Furthermore, cries to be delivered from personal crises appeal to the God who conquered the chaos of the seas (compare Pss. 69 and 144). In verse 7 of Psalm 144, the poet compared the threat of waters to the threat of enemies (NLT): “Reach down from heaven and rescue me; deliver me from deep waters, from the power of my enemies.”

Future: Finally, writers used the conflict-with chaos imagery when describing God’s final and decisive battle against evil in the future. For example, in Isaiah 27:1 we read that in the future God will slay Leviathan, “the monster of the sea” (v. 3), and John’s vision of a new Jerusalem with no more crying or pain included the observation that “there was no longer any sea” (Rev. 21:1-4, NIV).

Poetical or Polemical?

So the motif of conquest over a chaotic sea that is found in many Near Eastern cultures is also used widely in the Bible. Since God’s character and intent in the biblical stories are vastly different from the way the surrounding cultures described their hero-gods, what would motivate the biblical writers to employ the images of divine warfare and provision used by the neighboring cultures?

The biblical writers were reminding the Israelites who were attracted to compromise with the surrounding culture that the true God better deserved the titles and far exceeded the exploits of the gods in the stories of Israel’s neighbors. Like gifted teachers of any generation, the biblical writers painted the glory of God with borrowed colors.                                                                                                     Bi

1. Mary Wakeman, God’s Battle with the Monster: A Study in Biblical Imagery (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1973), 4-6; As Bernhard Anderson says, “No longer can we view the Bible solely from a Babylonian perspective, for the Chaoskampf is a more ubiquitous motif, indeed one that is not only ancient Near Eastern in the broad sense but one that touches the depths of a mythical apprehension of reality found in ‘archaic’ societies.” B. W. Anderson, “Introduction: Mythopoetic and Theological Dimensions of Biblical Creation Faith,” Creation in the Old Testament (Philadephia: Fortress, 1984), 2.

2. N. C. Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal: A Conflict of Religious Cultures (New York: Bookman, 1964), 73-74. For further information on Baal and the sea, see Fritz Stolze, “Sea” in Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, eds. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst (New York: E. J. Brill, 1995), 1390-1402, esp. 1396.

3. Habel, Yahweh Versus Baal, 53.

4. A. W. H. Curtis cites the following psalms as containing reference to God’s rule over the waters (He places question marks by the psalms that have only probable reference to this subject): 18?, 24, 29, 32?, 33, 42?, 46?, 65, 66, 69, 74, 77, 78, 89, 93, 95, 96, 98, 104, 106, 107, 114, 124?, 135, 136, 148. A.H.W. Curtis, “The ‘Subjugation of the Waters’ Motif in the Psalms: Imagery or Polemic?” Journal of Semitic Studies 23 (1978): 245-56, page 255.

5. Stolze, 1398.

6. A reference to God’s victory over Rahab is also found in Job 26:12-13.

7. God’s victory over the sea is also in Exodus 15:8-10; Nahum 1:4; Habakkuk 3:8; Jeremiah 5:22; 31:35; Isaiah 51:15; 27:1; Job 26:8-14; 38:8-11; and 41:1.

8. Anderson called Psalm 104 “one of the most important and exquisite creation texts in the OT. There are numerous affinities between Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 such as linguistic parallels and similarity in the sequence of events of creation.” Anderson, 11.

9. Habel, 81. See also Psalm 68:4, where we are told to “extol him who rides on the clouds” (NIV).

10. Speaking of Psalm 77, A. W. H. Curtis said: “Yahweh’s historical intervention on behalf of his people is expressed in terms of the cosmic theophany of the storm god, who strikes fear into the chaotic waters who stand in opposition to him. It is hard to imagine how the hearer could fail to think of the great mythological battles of the storm god against the sea monster, when he was confronted with this vivid description.” Curtis, “The ‘Subjugation of the Waters’ Motif, Journal of Semitic Studies, 249.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 31, Number 1; Fall 2004


CHARIOTS Their Development and Use

By Kelvin Moore

Kelvin Moore is associate professor of Christian studies, Union University, Jackson, Tennessee and pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church, Idlewild, Tennessee.


WING LOW, SWEET CHARIOT, comin’ for to carry me home.  Swing low, sweet chariot, comin’ for to carry me home.  That spiritual is familiar and a favorite to many Christians.  But what do we know about Elijah’s famous chariot transport?  What do we know about the development and use of chariots?  What part did the chariot play in Israelite history?  What led to the chariot’s demise?

Archaeological evidence indicates the chariot developed in Mesopotamia before 3000 BC and that the Hyksos introduced chariot warfare into Syria and Egypt between 1800 and 1600 BC.1  The development of the horse-drawn chariot permitted for the first time large empires, such as the Hittite and Assyrian, to dominate.

Chariot Style and Development

Originally, chariots were probably made of light wickerwork and had a box-like shape.  Commonly, the front was curved, the sides straight, with the back open.  Oftentimes woven rope comprised the floor—giving the rider(s) a soft and springy footing.  An axle with wooden wheels of four, six, or eight spokes supported the carriage.

The chariot’s physical appearance developed across the centuries.  Eventually, wicker gave way to wood.  First to do so, the Philistines fortified their wooden chariots with metal plates (Josh. 17:16-18).  The advancement of “armor plate” made the Philistine chariot significantly stronger than the lighter, unfortified chariot belonging to the Israelites.  Normally chariots were low slung, but Sennacherib introduced the high chariot, the wheels of which were easily a man’s height.2

The Egyptians revolutionized chariotry.  “The Egyptian chariot was probably the finest in the world in Joshua’s day.”3  Previous chariots were heavy, difficult to maneuver, and pulled by slow-moving donkeys.  Because of the scarcity of wood along the Nile River, Egyptians normally constructed chariots of much lighter wicker.  Rather than using donkeys to pull chariots, the Egyptians pulled their chariots with horses.  Thus, made of light materials and pulled by horses, the Egyptian chariots possessed greater speed than earlier chariots.  The Egyptians also improved the chariot’s design.  Egyptian chariots had a lower body that gave the chariot a lower center of gravity.  This design provided greater stability than the often clumsy predecessor.  The rider stood directly over the axle in the Egyptian version.  Such design distributed the rider’s weight away from the horses to the chariot and placed less stress on the horses.  Under the able leadership of Egyptian designers, the chariot developed into an effective military tool that opposing forces greatly feared.

Normally two individuals, a driver and a warrior, rode in military chariots.  But a third rider manned Hittite chariots.  Chariots that developed after Assyrian King Ashurbanipal (668-629 BC ) carried four riders at times.  Two horses pulled the chariot, but occasionally historical monuments show a third horse.  The third horse, not actually yoked to the chariot, was a spare.

While mountainous regions rendered the chariot useless, the chariot was a deadly weapon in flat, open terrain.  Long, intimidating knives attached to the chariot’s wheels shredded enemy soldiers as the chariot raced across the battlefield.  These spinning blades ripped into pieces any soldier caught on the open plains.

Chariots in the Bible

Through rarely mentioned in the New Testament,4 chariots are commonplace in the Old Testament.  Perhaps one of the most recognized chariot narratives occurred during the exodus and the omnipotent God of the Israelites destroyed Pharaoh’s chariots in the Red Sea (Ex. 14—15).  Chariots were also a common means of transportation in the times of Elijah and Elisha. 

Genesis 41:43 records one of the earliest biblical references to the chariot’s use.  In this passage Joseph rode in the Egyptian chariot directly behind Pharaoh’s chariot, indicating Joseph’s place of authority.  Joseph also rode in a royal chariot to meet his father (46:29) as well as for his father’s funeral (50:9).

The Hebrew word that describes Joseph’s chariot (rekeb) is the same word used to describe Elijah’s heavenly ride (2 Kings 2:11).  Found over one hundred and twenty times in the Old Testament, rekeb is the most common noun that describes a horse-drawn vehicle.5  Rekeb describes both military and royal chariots.

In their early history, the Israelites did not commonly use the chariot.  When they initiated the conquest, they found it impossible to defeat the Canaanites in the open plains because of the Canaanite use of the chariot.  The agrarian Israelites found themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the presence of the Canaanites’ formidable chariot force.  But the military genius Joshua managed to defeat Jabin, king of Hazor and Jabin’s allies in spite of Jabin’s powerful chariot force: “They [Jabin and allies] came out with all their troops and a large number of horses and chariots—a huge army, as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (Josh. 11:4, NIV).  Joshua launched a surprise attack at the “Waters of Morom.”  In order to neutralize Jabin’s ominous chariot force, the Israelites hamstrung Jabin’s horses, that is, cut the large tendon back of the hock.6  In the aftermath of the Joshua-led conquest, the Naphtali and Zebulun tribes defeated Sisera’s nine-hundred chariot forces near Mount Tabor (Judg. 4:3-24).  When the Israelites were fortunate enough to defeat an enemy chariot force, they either crippled the horses or led them away from the flat ground, thus rendering the chariots ineffective.

Because early Israelite chariot usage was rare, the Israelites avoided the great royal highway along the Mediterranean Sea.  Instead, they favored the hill country to the east where enemy chariots were less maneuverable and less effective.

During the times of the prophet Samuel and King Saul, the Philistines dominated the Israelites for numerous reasons—Philistine chariots being one.  The chariot played a key role in the Israelite-Philistine life-and-death struggle.7  This struggle eventually cost King Saul his life.  King David’s victories over the Philistines were undoubtedly because he introduced the chariot to the Israelite artillery.8  After King David defeated Hadadezer, David took enough horses to supply 100 chariots (2 Sam. 8:4).  While King David inducted the chariot into Israelite use, King Solomon greatly expanded its usage (1 Kings 4:26; 9:15-19).  King Solomon developed an army of chariots and elevated his army above the armies of his rivals.  According to 1 Kings 10:26-29, Solomon’s army possessed 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horses.  Chariot usage among the Hebrews climaxed with King Ahab, who exceeded both David and Solomon.  According to Assyrian records, King Ahab engaged the Assyrians at the battle of Qarqar (853 BC) with 2,000 chariots!9

“The destruction of the Egyptian war chariots at the Red Sea became a favored symbol of God’s deliverance of His people” (Josh. 24:6-7).10  Psalm 68:17 utilizes a powerful illustration of a chariot to describe God’s magnificence.  The psalmist described God ascending His throne in the temple: “The chariots of God are tens of thousands and thousands of thousands; the Lord has come from Sinai into his sanctuary” (NIV).

With the advent of horseback riding by 1000 BC, chariots were no longer the preferred military implement for soldiers and officers.  Mounted cavalry replaced chariots as the military instrument of choice.  Yet long after the demise of their usefulness in war, chariots continued to be used for hunting and sport racing.                                                                                                                                              Bi

1.      Ngan, “Chariots,” Holman Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 245. Ibid.

2.      Wevers, “Chariot,” The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 553.

3.      Beers, “Canaanite Chariots,” The Victor Handbook of Bible Knowledge (Wheaton: Victor Books), 141.

4.      Check Acts 8:26-40 where Philip approached the Ethiopian eunuchas the eunuch rode in a chariot and Revelation 9:9 and 18:13 where chariots were used in prophetic imagery.

5.      Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Lafayette: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981), 939.

6.      Morton, “Joshua,” Broadman Bible Commentary, vol. 2 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), 346.

7.      Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), 185.

8.      Wevers, 554.

9.      Ngan, 245.

10.    Wevers, 554.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 40, No. 1; Fall 2013.




What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (08/24/14) The name of the Lord is like what place of safety? Answer next week:

 The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (08/17/14)  Who told his wife not to worry that she was barren and said, “am not I better to thee than ten sons”?Answer: Elkanah; 1 Sam. 1:8.