Psalm 104:1-4, 10-15, 27-30

Psalm 104:1-4, 10-15, 27-30
First Sunday in Lent A – A Women’s Lectionary

BlessA the Lord,B O my soul.C
    O Lord my God,D you are veryE great.F

Notes on verse 1a

A “bless” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
B “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
C “soul” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
D “God” = Elohim.
E “very” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.
F “are…great” = gadal. This is to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing.

You are clothedG with honorH and majesty,I
    wrappedJ in lightK as with a garment.L

Notes on verses 1b-2a

G “clothed” = labash. This is to wrap around, which implies clothing oneself or someone else. This is wrapping around in a literal or figurative way.
H “honor” = hod. This is grandeur, beauty, glory, honor, or authority. It emphasizes a form or appearance with gravitas.
I “majesty” = hadar. From hadar (to honor or adorn; majestic, respected, glorious; to favor or honor; to be proud). This is ornament, splendor, beauty, dignity, majesty, magnificence, and glory.
J “wrapped” = atah. 17x in OT. This is to wrap, cover, veil, be clad, turn aside.
K “light” = or. From or (to be or become light). This is light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight. Figuratively, it can refer to light from instruction, light of a face (that is to say one that is cheerful or finds favor). It can refer to prosperity or salvation; a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion.
L “garment” = salmah. 16x in OT. From simlah (mantle, clothes, wrapper); perhaps from semel (image, figure, likeness). This is the same word as simlah with the letters transposed. So, this is clothing, a cloak, or mantle.

You stretch outM the heavensN like a tent,O
    you set the beamsP of your chambersQ on the waters,R

Notes on verses 2b-3a

M “stretch out” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
N “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
O “tent” = yeriah. From yara (to tremble, fear, quiver). This is a hanging curtain – a tent curtain that can shake.
P “set the beams” = qarah. This is to encounter, usually unintentionally. It can also mean to happen or to lay wood for a floor or roof.
Q “chambers” = aliyyah. 19x in OT. From alah (to go up, climb, approach, bring; to be high or actively climb; can be literal or figurative). This is a lofty place. So, it could be stairs, an upstairs room, or a chamber on the roof. It could also be an ascent or the sky.
R “waters” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.

you makeS the cloudsT your chariot,U
    you rideV on the wingsW of the wind,X

Notes on verse 3b

S “make” = sum. This is to put or place in a literal or figurative sense. It can be appoint, care, change, make, and may other things.
T “clouds” = ab. Perhaps from uwb (to be a think or dark cloud, a cloud covering). This is a dark or thick cloud that can envelope in darkness. It can also refer to a copse or to clay.
U “chariot” = rekub. 1x in OT. From rakab (to ride an animal or in some vehicle; also, bringing on a horse). This is a chariot.
V “ride” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
W “wings” = kanaph. This is wing, edge, corner, extremity. It can also be a flap or fold of a garment or the pinnacle of a building.
X “wind” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.

you makeY the winds your messengers,Z
    fireAA and flameBB your ministers.CC

Notes on verse 4

Y “make” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
Z “messengers” = malak. This is a messenger, an angel, or a deputy of some kind. Can be used for human messengers literally or for prophets, priests, or teachers as messengers of God. Also used for supernatural messengers i.e. angels.
AA “fire” = esh. This is fire, burning, flaming, hot. It is fire in a literal or figurative sense.
BB “flame” = lahat. 11x in OT. This is to set on fire, burn, kindle, be ablaze, consume.
CC “ministers” = sharath. This is ministering, serving, or waiting on. It can refer to one offering service as a worshipper or one serving as a servant.

10 You make springsDD gush forthEE in the valleys;FF
    they flowGG between the hills,HH

Notes on verse 10

DD “springs” = mayan. From ayin (eye, appearance; eye in a literal or figurative sense; a fountain). This is a spring, well, or fountain. Figuratively, this is a source of contentment.
EE “make…gush forth” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.
FF “valleys” = nachal. From nachal (to take as heritage, inherit, or distribute). This is a river or stream. It could be a wadi or arroyo – sometimes a narrow valley with no water at all, but in strong rains or when winter snow melts, it swells or floods with water.
GG “flow” = halak. Same as “ride” in v3. See note V above.
HH “hills” = har. From harar (hill or mountain). This is mountain, hill, hilly region.

11 giving drinkII to everyJJ wildKK animal;LL
    the wild assesMM quenchNN their thirst.OO

Notes on verse 11

II “giving drink” = shaqah. This is to give water to, to cause to drink – to irrigate, drown. It can be used for watering plants or giving water to flocks.
JJ “every” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
KK “wild” = sadeh. This is literally field, ground, soil, or land. It can be used to mean wild like a wild animal.
LL “animal” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
MM “wild asses” = pere. 10x in OT. Perhaps from para (to be fruitful, to run free as a wild animal). This is a wild donkey.
NN “quench” = shabar. This is break, collapse, destroy, break in pieces, tear. It is bursting in a literal or figurative sense.
OO “thirst” = tsama. 17x in OT. From tsame (to thirst in a literal or figurative sense). This is thirst in a literal or figurative sense. It could also refer to dry ground.

12 By the streams the birdsPP of the airQQ have their habitation;RR
    they singSS among the branches.TT

Notes on verse 12

PP “birds” = oph. From uph (to fly, flee, shine, be weary, be faint). This is a flying creature.
QQ “air” = shamayim. Same as “heavens” in v2. See note N above.
RR “have…habitation” = shakan. This is to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently. It can mean abide or continue. “Mishkan,” taken from this verb, is the Hebrew word for the Tabernacle (as a place where God abided).
SS “sing” = natan + qol. Literally, “give voice.” Natan is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.  Qol is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
TT “branches” = ophe. 1x in OT. Related to ophayim (foliage or branches) OR the root may have the sense of covering. This is a bough or branch.

13 From your lofty abodeUU you waterVV the mountains;WW
    the earthXX is satisfiedYY with the fruitZZ of your work.AAA

Notes on verse 13

UU “lofty abode” = aliyyah. Same as “chambers” in v3. See note Q above.
VV “water” = shaqah. Same as “giving drink” in v11. See note II above.
WW “mountains” = har. Same as “hills” in v10. See note HH above.
XX “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
YY “satisfied” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
ZZ “fruit” = peri. From parah (to bear fruit, grow, be fruitful, increase; bearing fruit in a literal or figurative sense). This is fruit or reward.
AAA “work” = maaseh. Related to “make” in v4. From asah (see note Y above). This is a word – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.

14 You cause the grassBBB to growCCC for the cattle,DDD
    and plantsEEE for peopleFFF to use,GGG
to bring forthHHH foodIII from the earth,

Notes on verse 14

BBB “grass” = chatsir. Perhaps from the same as chatsir (village, settlement); from chatser (enclosure or court – a yard that is fenced in. It could also be a village or hamlet that is walled in); from chatsar (to blow a trumpet, trumpeter, to surround); from chatsotsrah (trumpet). This is grass, plant, hay, leeks.
CCC “cause…to grow” = tsamach. This is to sprout, grow, or spring up – literal or figurative.
DDD “cattle” = behemah. This is animal or cattle. It is often used of large quadrupeds.
EEE “plants” = eseb. Root may mean to be green or to glisten. This is grass or some other tender shoot.
FFF “people” = adam. Perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
GGG “use” = abodah. From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is labor, service, bondage, job, servitude, worker. It can refer to any kind of work.
HHH “bring forth” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
III “food” = lechem. From lacham (to eat, feed on). This is bread, food, loaf. It can refer to food more generally for people or for animals.

15     and wineJJJ to gladdenKKK the humanLLL heart,MMM

Notes on verse 15a

JJJ “wine” = yayin. Root may mean to effervesce, referring to the fermentation process. This is wine, grape, or banquet. It can imply intoxication.
KKK “gladden” = samach. This is to rejoice or be glad. Properly, it is to brighten up in a literal or figurative sense.
LLL “human” = enosh. From anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is human, humankind, another. It is mortal.
MMM “heart” = lebab. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.

oilNNN to make the faceOOO shine,PPP
    and breadQQQ to strengthenRRR the human heart.

Notes on verse 15b

NNN “oil” = shemen. From shamen (to shine, which implies being oily, growing fat). This is fat, oil, grease, olive oil – often with perfume. Used figuratively for fertile, lavish, rich.
OOO “face” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.
PPP “make…shine” = tsahal. 9x in OT. This is to cry or shout – including an animal cry or neigh. It can also mean to gleam, rejoice, be glad.
QQQ “bread” = lechem. Same as “food” in v14. See note III above.
RRR “strengthen” = saad. 12x in OT. This is to support – usually used in a figurative sense. So it is sustain, hold, refresh, comfort, establish.

27 These allSSS lookTTT to you
    to giveUUU them their foodVVV in due season;WWW

Notes on verse 27

SSS “all” = kol. Same as “every” in v11. See note JJ above.
TTT “look” = sabar. 8x in OT.  This is to look, inspect, wait. It can imply watching for in a hopeful and patient manner.
UUU “give” = natan. Same as “sing” in v12. See note SS above.
VVV “food” = okel. From akal (to eat, devour, burn up, or otherwise consume; eating in a literal or figurative sense). This is food, supply of provisions, the act of eating, or the time when one eats.
WWW “due season” = eth. Probably from anah (to answer, sing, announce); from ad (forever, all, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself). This is a period or season. It can also mean whenever or continually.

28 when you give to them, they gather it up;XXX
    when you openYYY your hand,ZZZ they are filledAAAA with good things.BBBB

Notes on verse 28

XXX “gather…up” = laqat. This is to pick up, glean, gather.
YYY “open” = patach. This is to open wide in a literal or figurative sense. So, it is open, draw out, let something go free, break forth. It can also mean to plow, engrave, or carve.
ZZZ “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
AAAA “filled” = saba. Same as “satisfied” in v13. See note YY above.
BBBB “good things” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing, to be good). This is good, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, at ease. This word is used for goodness as a concept, a good thing, a good person. This can refer to prosperity and welfare as well as joy, kindness, sweetness, and graciousness. So, this is ethically good, but also enjoyably good.

29 When you hideCCCC your face, they are dismayed;DDDD
    when you take awayEEEE their breath,FFFF they dieGGGG
    and returnHHHH to their dust.IIII

Notes on verse 29

CCCC “hide” = sathar. This is hide, conceal, or be absent. It is hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense.
DDDD “dismayed” = bahal. To be afraid or dismayed or amazed. This is deep trembling within. So, figuratively, it refers to being suddenly agitated. This implies moving or acting quickly/anxiously.
EEEE “take away” = asaph. This is to gather, assemble, or bring. It can also mean to take away, destroy, or remove.
FFFF “breath” = ruach. Same as “wind” in v3. See note X above.
GGGG “die” = gava. This is to breathe out, which implies expire or die.
HHHH “return” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
IIII “dust” = aphar. May be related to aphar (to throw dust, be dust). This is dust as powdered, perhaps gray colored. It could be ashes, powder, ground, dry earth, clay mud, or rubbish.

30 When you send forthJJJJ your spirit,KKKK they are created;LLLL
    and you renewMMMM the face of the ground.NNNN

Notes on verse 30

JJJJ “send forth” = shalach. Same as “make…gush forth” in v10. See note EE above.
KKKK “spirit” = ruach. Same as “wind” in v3. See note X above.
LLLL “created” = bara. This is to create, shape, choose, or select. It is the word used in Genesis 1:1 when God created the heavens and the earth.
MMMM “renew” = chadash. 10x inOT. This is to renew or restore, to repair or rebuild.
NNNN “ground” = adamah. Related to “people” in v14. From adam (see note FFF above). This is ground, earth, soil as red, or land.

Image credit: “Banias Waterfall, Golan Heights” by Nahum Dam, 2004.

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