Psalm 104:19

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 19. The appointed rule of the great lights is now the theme for praise. The moon is mentioned first, because in the Jewish day the night leads the way.

He appointed the moon for seasons. By the waxing and waning of the moon the year is divided into months, and weeks, and by this means the exact dates of the holy days were arranged. Thus the lamp of night is made to be of service to man, and in fixing the period of religious assemblies (as it did among the Jews) it enters into connection with his noblest being. Never let us regard the moon's motions as the inevitable result of inanimate impersonal law, but as the appointment of our God.

The sun knoweth his going down. In finely poetic imagery the sun is represented as knowing when to retire from sight, and sink below the horizon. He never loiters on his way, or pauses as if undecided when to descend; his appointed hour for going down, although it is constantly varying, he always keeps to a second. We need to be aroused in the morning, but he arises punctually, and though some require to watch the clock to know the hour of rest, he, without a timepiece to consult, hides himself in the western sky the instant the set time has come. For all this man should praise the Lord of the sun and moon, who has made these great lights to be our chronometers, and thus keeps our world in order, and suffers no confusion to distract us.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 19. -- He appointed the moon for seasons. When it is said, that the moon was appointed to distinguish seasons, interpreters agree that this is to be understood of the ordinary and appointed feasts. The Hebrews having been accustomed to compute their months by the moon, this served for regulating their festival days and assemblies both sacred and political. The prophet, I have no doubt, by the figure synecdoche, puts a part for the whole, intimating that the moon not only distinguishes the days from the nights, but likewise marks out the festival days, measures years and months, and, in line, answers many useful purposes, in as much as the distinction of times is taken from her course. -- John Calvin.

Verse 19. -- He appointed the moon for seasons. "He made the moon to serve in her season, for a declaration ofttimes, and a sign to the world. From the moon is the sign of feasts, a light that decreases in her perfection. The month is called after her name, increasing wonderfully in her changing, being an instrument of the armies above, shining in the firmament of heaven; the beauty of heaven, the glory of the stars, an ornament giving light in the highest places of the Lord." -- Ecclesiastes 10:7

Verse 19. -- The sun knoweth his going down. The second clause is not to be rendered in the common way, "The sun knoweth his going down," but according to the usual idiom, He, i.e., God knoweth the going down of the sun. Not to mention the unwanted and harsh form of the phrase, by which the knowledge of his setting is attributed to the sun, there appears no reason why it should be here used, since it is destitute of force,{1} or why he should turn from God as a cause, to the moving sun, when both before and afterwards he speaks of God, saying, "He appointed the moon," "Thou makest darkness". Far more fitly, therefore, is he to be understood as speaking of God, as before and after, so in the middle, of the directing cause of the appearances of the moon, the setting of the sun, and the spread of darkness. God also is said more correctly to know the going down of the sun, than the sun himself, since to know has in effect the force of to cared for, as is often the case in other passages. -- Venema.

{1} This excellent expounder cannot see the beauty of the poetic expression, and so proses in this fashion.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 19. --

  1. The wisdom of God as displayed in the material heavens. In the changes of the moon and the variety of the seasons.
  2. The goodness of God as there displayed in the adaptation of these changes to the wants and enjoyments of men.
  3. The faithfulness of God as there displayed. Inspiring confidence in his creatures by their regularity.
"So like the sun may I fulfil The appointed duties of the day; With ready mind and active will March on and keep my heavenly way."