The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19

Posted by Dim Bulb on September 28, 2012

Please note that the verse numbering follows that of the RSV. The NAB numbering is included in square brackets […].


THE glory of God, as shown in the heavens, and revealed in the Law, is the theme of this psalm. The first part of the poem (Ps 19:1-6 [19:2-7]) deals with the glory of God which is unceasingly hymned, in words intelligible to all, by the hosts of heaven—the glory which each hour of the day and of the night displays in ever- changing splendour, the glory which is seen most fully in the sun, the greatest of the wondrous beings which God has set in the heavens. From one end of heaven to the other speeds the great sun, penetrating all things with his fiery glow.

The second part of the psalm (Ps 19:7-14 [19:8-15]) deals with that glory of God
which the Law displays. The Law is pure and clean: it brightens the eyes, and quickens the soul; to follow it means rich reward. May the Lord forgive the singer his sins of frailty, save him from the godless, and receive graciously the words of his song!

The two parts of the poem fall naturally enough together. To the brilliant fiery ball of the sun that lights up and vivifies the world, corresponds the Law that gives brilliancy to the eyes and quickening to the soul. The transition from the first part to the second is, however, abrupt, and the two parts differ greatly in metrical structure. Possibly the first part is older than the second. It is possible that an ancient song of God’s glory in nature, and, perhaps, a fragment of a poem on the sun, were taken to form a preface to a poem on the Law. The wondrous glory shown in the starry heavens and the mighty sun would form a fitting counterpoise to the glory of the moral Law.

The author of the psalm is, according to the title, David. If the view, that there are here fragments of ancient poetry used as a prelude to a poem on the Law, is true, David can still be the author of the poem as it stands. It is objected, however, against Davidic authorship, that the attitude of reflection on, and respect for, the Law shown in the second part is far more natural in the post- Exilic, than it would have been in the Davidic period.

One Response to “Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19”

  1. […] Father Boylan’s Introduction to Psalm 19. Whole Psalm. […]

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