Verse 16. The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's. There he specially reigns, and manifests his greatness and his glory: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. He hath left the world during the present dispensation in a great measure under the power and will of men, so that things are not here below in the same perfect order as the things which are above. It is true the Lord rules over all things by his providence, but yet he allows and permits men to break his laws and persecute his people for the time being, and to set up their dumb idols in opposition to him. The free agency which he gave to his creatures necessitated that in some degree he should restrain his power and suffer the children of men to follow their own devices; yet nevertheless, since he has not vacated heaven, he is still master of earth, and can at any time gather up all the reins into his own hands. Perhaps, however, the passage is meant to have another meaning, viz., that God will increase his people, because he has given the earth to them, and intends that they shall fill it. Man was constituted originally God's vicegerent over the world, and though as yet we see not all things put under him, we see Jesus exalted on high, and in him the children of men shall receive a loftier dominion even on earth than as yet they have known. "The meek shall inherit the earth; and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace": and our Lord Jesus shall reign amongst his ancients gloriously. All this will reflect the exceeding glory of him who reveals himself personally in heaven, and in the mystical body of Christ below. The earth belongs to the sons of God, and we are bound to subdue it for our Lord Jesus, for he must reign. The Lord hath given him the heathen for his inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 16. The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S. He demonstrates, that, as God has his dwelling place in the heavens, he must be independent of all worldly riches; for, assuredly, neither wine, nor corn, nor anything requisite for the support of the present life, is produced there. Consequently, God has every resource in himself. To this circumstance the repetition of the term "heavens" refers. The heavens, the heavens are enough for God; and as he is superior to all aid, he is to himself instead of a hundred more. John Calvin.
Verse 16. The earth hath he given, etc. This verse is full of beauty, when read in connection with what follows, as a descriptive declaration of the effect of "the regeneration" on this lower scene. For until then, man has rather been given to the earth than the earth to the sons of men. It is but a place of graves, and the day of death seems better than the day of birth, so long as men walk in no brighter light than that of the sun. Arthur Pridham.
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 16. Man's lordship over the world, its limit, its abuse, its legitimate bound, its grand design.