Psalm 19

Psalm 19
"The heavens declare the glory of God"
Harmony of the World (1806) by Ebenezer Sibly, showing a heliocentric universe; Psalms 19:2 is one of four verses quoted at bottom of the illustration
Other name
  • Psalm 18
  • "Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei"
  • "Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes"
Textattributed to David
LanguageHebrew (original)

Psalm 19 is the 19th psalm in the Book of Psalms, known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 18 in a slightly different numbering system. The Latin version begins "Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei".[1] The psalm is attributed to David.

The psalm considers the glory of God in creation, and moves to reflect on the character and use of "the law of the LORD". It is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies. It has been set to music often, notably by Heinrich Schütz, by Johann Sebastian Bach who began a cantata with its beginning, and by Joseph Haydn, who based a movement from Die Schöpfung on the psalm.

Background and themes

According to the Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, this psalm compares and contrasts "the study of God's two great books—nature and Scripture".[2] Explaining the emphasis on the heavens, Spurgeon explains, "The book of nature has three leaves, heaven, earth, and sea, of which heaven is the first and the most glorious…” Beginning in verse 7 (KJV), the psalmist then extols the perfection of the law of Moses and "the doctrine of God, the whole run and rule of sacred Writ".[2]

The classical Jewish commentators all point to the connection the psalmist makes between the sun and the Torah. These connections include:[3]

  • The Torah enlightens man, just as the sun lights his way (Rashi)
  • Both the sun and the Torah testify to the glory of their Creator (Ibn Ezra and Radak)
  • The Torah is more perfect, whole, or complete than the powerful sun (Metzudat David)
  • While the sun conveys God's glory and greatness in the physical world, the Torah expresses God's glory in the spiritual realm (Malbim).

John Mason Good theorizes that this psalm was composed either in the morning or around noon, when the bright sun eclipses the other heavenly bodies; he contrasts this with Psalm 8, in which the psalmist contemplates the starry sky in the evening.[2] Praising the poetry of this psalm, 20th-century British writer C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying: "I take this to be the greatest poem in the Psalter and one of the greatest lyrics in the world".[4]

The final verse in both the Hebrew and KJV versions, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my Redeemer," is used as a prayer in both the Jewish[5] and Christian traditions.[2]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Si-phian 19
Deutsch: Psalm 19
français: Psaume 19 (18)
Bahasa Indonesia: Mazmur 19
italiano: Salmo 19
עברית: תהילים י"ט
Latina: Psalmus 19
українська: Псалом 18