Verse 4. Who maketh his angels spirits; or wields, for the word means either. Angels are pure spirits, though they are permitted to assume a visible form when God desires us to see them. God is a spirit, and he is waited upon by spirits in his royal courts. Angels are like winds for mystery, force, and invisibility, and no doubt the winds themselves are often the angels or messengers of God. God who makes his angels to be as winds, can also make winds to be his angels, and they are constantly so in the economy of nature.
His ministers a flaming fire. Here, too, we may choose which we will of two meanings: God's ministers or servants he makes to be as swift, potent, and terrible as fire, and on the other hand he makes fire, that devouring element, to be his minister flaming forth upon his errands. That the passage refers to angels is clear from Hebrews 1:7 ; and it was most proper to mention them here in connection with light and the heavens, and immediately after the robes and paltree of the Great King. Should not the retinue of the Lord of Hosts be mentioned as well as his chariot? It would have been a flaw in the description of the universe had the angels not been alluded to, and this is the most appropriate place for their introduction. When we think of the extraordinary powers entrusted to angelic beings, and the mysterious glory of the seraphim and the four living creatures, we are led to reflect upon the glory of the Master whom they serve, and again we cry out with the psalmist, "O Lord, my God, thou art very great."
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 4. -- Who maketh his angels spirits. Some render it, Who maketh his angels as the winds, to which they may be compared for their invisibility, they being not to be seen, no more than the wind, unless when they assume an external form; and for their penetration through bodies in a very surprising manner; see Acts 7:6-10 ; and for their great force and power, being mighty angels, and said to excel in strength, Psalms 103:20 ; and for their swiftness in obeying the divine commands; so the Targum, "He maketh his messengers, or angels, swift as the wind." --John Gill.
Verse 4. -- Who maketh his angels spirits. The words, "creating his angels spirits," may either mean "creating them spiritual beings, not material beings," or "creating them winds" -- i.e. like the winds, invisible, rapid in their movements, and capable of producing great effects. The last mode of interpretation seems pointed out by the parallelism -- "and his ministers" -- or, "servants" -- who are plainly the same as his angels, -- "a flame of fire," i.e., like the lightning. The statement here made about the angels seems to be this: "They are created beings, who in their qualities bear a resemblance to the winds and the lightning."
The argument deduced by Paul, in Hebrews 2:7 , from this statement for the inferiority of the angels is direct and powerful: -- He is the Son; they are the creatures of God. "Only begotten" is the description of his mode of existence; made is the description of theirs. All their powers are communicated power; and however high they may stand in the scale of creation, it is in that scale they stand, which places them infinitely below him, who is so the Son of God as to be "God over all, blessed for ever." --John Brown, in "An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews."
Verse 4. -- A flaming fire. Fire is expressive of irresistible power, immaculate holiness, and ardent emotion. It is remarkable that the seraphim, one class at least of these ministers, have their name from a root signifying to burn; and the altar, from which one of them took the live coal, Isaiah 6:6 , is the symbol of the highest form of holy love. --James G. Murphy, in "A Commentary on the Book of Psalms," 1875.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. --
(b) Their activity or zeal: "a flaming fire."
(c) Their dependence: made ministers.