Reasons to Believe

Psalm 104: A Poetic View of Creation

Here I present an article by my RTB colleagues, Krista Bontrager and Fazale Rana--excerpted from their latest booklet, Psalm 104: In Wisdom You Made Them All, available from reasons.org in May.

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While you may not have noticed the connection with Genesis 1, Psalm 104 offers a poetic meditation on key themes presented in the first chapter of the Bible. Psalm 104 also presents a unique parallel passage to Genesis 1. In some cases it offers a broader description of the events that transpired on certain creation days.

It’s important to note, however, that a connection between Psalm 104 and Genesis 1 does not imply that all the events described in Psalm 104 took place in the distant past. The psalmist engages in a back-and-forth rhythm—toggling between the creation days of Genesis 1 and his current observations of the creation. For example, Psalm 104:7–9 discusses events that correspond to creation day 3 in the Genesis 1 chronology, followed immediately (in verses 10–13) by events that correspond to days 5 and 6, when animals and humans were created. This pattern results in a few moments of mingling between the creation story and the psalmist’s contemporary observations.

This back-and-forth nature of the poem makes interpreting the passages complicated at times, but it also adds value. Psalm 104 communicates certain information that is not well developed in Genesis 1––namely, God’s purposeful, progressive plan of creation. Each of God’s creative acts establishes the necessary conditions on Earth to allow for a subsequent act of creation. That is, what God did on creation day 2 sets the stage for what God did later, on creation days 3, 4, 5, and 6.

The relationship between Genesis 1 and Psalm 104 might be compared to the dual accounts of the Hebrews leaving Egypt as recorded in Exodus 14 and 15. Exodus 14 records the crossing of the Red Sea as a historical narrative. Exodus 15 provides a poetic account of the same event. Both are accurate, inspired by God, and true. Both genres—historical narrative and poetry—bring us God’s Word, but in a different literary format.

Next time you’re enjoying the great outdoors, hiking, fishing, or relaxing on the beach, take a few moments to reflect on the wonders around you. Creation isn’t merely something to be admired for its beauty. It stands as a reminder to mediate on God’s creation and the power of God’s kingship over everything (Psalm 103:19, 22), including our sin and struggles.

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By Krista Kay Bontrager with Fazale Rana

Subjects: Other Creation Passages