Background and themes
According to Spurgeon, this psalm compares and contrasts "the study of God's two great books—nature and Scripture". 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".
The classical Jewish commentators all point to the connection the psalmist makes between the sun and the Torah. These connections include:
- 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. 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".
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 and Christian traditions.