Fairview Baptist Church
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
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014
Theme: And It Was Good
What This Study Is About:
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!
God’s Work of Creation
Our Work With Creation
in creation is the work of the God who loves us.
God’s Creative Power (Psalm 104:1-5)
Creative Wisdom (Psalm 104:24-26)
Sustaining Love (Psalm 104:27-30)
OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:
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,
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.
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.
established the earth on its foundations; it will never be shaken.
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.
the psalmist described God’s works as countless, what impact should that have
on you, as a believer?
much of creation did the psalmist attribute to the Lord (v. 24)?
words in verse 24 support your answer?
word in verse 24 teaches us that creation came from an intentional design from
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)?
does science confirm the truth stated about marine life in verse 25?
is a Leviathan (see Digging Deeper), and why do you think the psalmist referred
to it here?
is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
(See Digging Deeper.)
does knowing that God’s vast wisdom is beyond human description impact your
does this help us to understand David’s point in referring to God’s wisdom in creation?
is God’s wisdom reflected through His creation?
How have you seen God’s wisdom reflected in the natural world?
If God’s display of His wisdom is reflected through His creation, how
much more should humankind rely of Him?
What do you think is the main cause for people to ignore or disregard
God’s wisdom for providing them with fullness of life?
How often do you think about how dependent you are on your Creator, even
for every breath you take?
How often do you thank Him for sharing His wisdom with you?
Lessons in Psalm 104:24-26:
His infinite power, God created all things.
wisdom determined the best things for Him to create.
people should praise Him for His wisdom and power.
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.
whom do you think this passage is applicable?
(See v. 24.)
does it mean to wait on the Lord?
do you think is God’s purpose for urging believers to “wait on the Lord”?
is the implication for the believer to “wait
on the Lord”?
does waiting on the Lord impact your
daily life (v. 27)?
you think this is a difficult task?
so, what makes it so difficult?
aspect of a believer’s life is in view in verses 27-28?
tragic truth from Genesis 3 does the death of animal life remind us about?
what does the term breath remind us
about from the creation account?
Based on this
passage, how is creation dependent upon the Lord?
did the psalmist provide that confirm the Lord is dependable?
did the psalmist make that affirms both life and death are under the Lord’s
control (v. 29)?
What does this
passage tell us about the kind of relationship we should have with the Lord?
Lessons in Psalm 104:27-30:
food for His creatures to sustain them.
trust in God to provide for our needs as well.
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!
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:
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
Focal Passage from three different translations of
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. 2 Who
coverest thyself with light
as with a garment: who
stretchest out the heavens like a curtain: 3 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)
Version: Psalm 104:1-5,24-30:
1 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. 4 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.
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)
Power (Psalm 104:1-5)
God’s Creative Wisdom (Psalm 104:24-26)
God’s Sustaining Love (Psalm 104:27-30)
Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old
“Believer’s Bible Commentary,” and “The 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary
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.
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.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
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.
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,
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
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,
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.
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).
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).
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).
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.
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,
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
1 magnificent; very
impressive. 2 informal, excellent.
SOURCE: Concise Oxford Dictionary; Tenth Edition;
Oxford University Press
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.
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.
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
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).
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).
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).
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Thomas E. McComiskey,
(bara’, to create) in Theological
Wordbook of the Old Testament, ed. R. Laird Harris (Chicago: Moody Press,
indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible
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),
to create), 1:127.
II. 1. Etymology” (bara’, to
create) in TDOT, 245.
T. V. Farris, Mighty
To Save: A Study in Old Testament Soteriology (Nashville: Broadman Press,
For a fuller
description of creationism and traducianism, see Wayne Greudem, Systematic
Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 484-86.
Seas as Divine Imagery
Thomas Goodman is pastor, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin,
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.
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
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
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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
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.
Their Development and Use
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?
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Chariots in the
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
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.
Ngan, “Chariots,” Holman Bible
Dictionary (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991), 245. Ibid.
Wevers, “Chariot,” The
Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 1 (Nashville: Abingdon Press,
Beers, “Canaanite Chariots,” The
Victor Handbook of Bible Knowledge (Wheaton: Victor Books), 141.
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.
Brown, Driver, and Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (Lafayette: Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981), 939.
Morton, “Joshua,” Broadman
Bible Commentary, vol. 2 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1970), 346.
Bright, A History of Israel, 3rd
ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1981), 185.
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:
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.