Lectionary Year B
June 8, 2003
Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Step III: Immediate Context


Pre: The first 23 verses of Psalm 104 extol God as great, as royally attired, as Creator, especially of the unshakable earth, as Provider of resources for the earth’s inhabitants, as Generator of time and seasons, etc.
Post:The end of this pericope, at verse 35, ends this Psalm.


Many refer to the Book of the Psalms as “Ancient Israel’s Hymnbook”. It contains lyrical and liturgical statements of various literary types or classes. They include praises, thanksgivings, lamentations, historical recollections, inaugurations, recitations of royalties’ characters and hope for just reigns, etc. These elements arose out of and were used in worship experiences in Temple, synagogues and personal practices of piety through time since their compositions and until now.
An early tradition divided the Book of Psalms into three divisions, 1-41, 42-89 and 90-150. The different divisions use different names for God. Later, the Book of the Psalms is divided into five sections. Book I goes from Psalm 1 through Psalm 41, Book II runs through Psalm 72, Book II goes through Psalm 89 and the last section goes from Psalm 107 and concludes with the last, Psalm 150.
Some groupings of Psalms have ancient titles, or headings, such as “of David” most of Psalms 3-41, 51-65, 68-70, “Songs of Ascents”, Psalms 120-134, attributed to the “Sons of Korah”, several from Psalms 42-88, and to the “Son of Asaph”, Psalms 50 and 73-83.


Psalm 104 could have composed anytime, anywhere and by anyone, as far as the internal evidence tells us. Since different Psalms were composed by different authors in different times, in different places and under different circumstances, we can hardly find any elements common to many Psalms to date their origin. The pericope at hand does emphasize the sea and its inhabitants. We might, therefore, surmise that the author lived near, traveled to and or sailed on the sea and respected it as well as its Creator and Provider. Otherwise, the author surely let the dynamics of the sea and its occupants move him to marvel at its awesomeness. The Creator and Sustainer of it also inspired the author to praise. Most current scholarship maintains that, although some Psalms might have been generated before the Exile (587 BC), some even during the sojourn in Babylon, the Book was compiled well thereafter. Carroll Stuhlmueller, in Harper’s Bible Commentary, contends that many Psalms in Books II, III and IV (of which 104 is one) probably arose during the Reform in Ezra’s time, “the latter part of the fifth century BC.”

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