Psalm 103

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Scroll of the Psalms

Psalm 103 is the 103rd psalm from the Book of Psalms (Greek numbering: Psalm 102). The first verse attributes it to King David, the author of many Psalms. J. A. Motyer of Trinity College, Bristol describes it thus: "The blend of changeless fatherly care and endless sovereign rule is the distinctive stress of this Psalm."[1]


The Psalm uses a variety of imagery, memorably in verse 12: "...As far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us..." 103:12.

An interesting note appears to the modern reader when considering verse 12. The significance of the compass directions being east and west in verse 12 instead of north and south, is that when traveling north you will eventually cross the North pole and begin traveling south, and the same vice versa. This does not happen when traveling east or west, and thus the difference between our transgression and ourselves is considered infinite. Although this line of reasoning is powerful for modern readers, the culture that produced this Psalm had a cosmology that viewed the world as flat and having four corners. In the original context, east and west function as a merism that implies infinite distance.



  • Verse 1 is the final verse of Nishmat.[2]
  • Verse 10 is part of the opening paragraph of the long Tachanun recited on Mondays and Thursdays.[3]
  • Verse 13 is part of the long Tachanun recited on Mondays and Thursdays.[4]
  • Verse 14 is the second-to-last verse of the regular Tachanun.[5]
  • Verse 17 is recited during the blessings before the Shema on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.[6]
  • Verse 19 is the seventh verse of Yehi Kivod in Pesukei Dezimra.[7]

Psalm 103 is not used in full in the Jewish liturgy but its verses found in many prayers Verse 1 concludes the prayer Nishmat. Verse 10 and verse 13 are part of the long tachanun recited Monday and Tuesday. Verse 14 is also the penultimate verse of the regular tachanun. Finally, verse 17 is recited for the blessings before the Shema, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and verse 19 is in the Yehi Kivod of zemirot.[8]


Psalm 103:3 on a cross in the village of Kétvölgy, Hungary.


This psalm was traditionally performed during the celebration of Matins of Saturday by the order of St. Benedict, probably since its founding to 530.[9]

In the Liturgy of Hours today, Psalm 103 is sung or recited to the Office of Sunday readings deuxième week. It is also very present among the Mass readings. It is the psalm read the Sacred Heart party. for ordinary times, we find the 7th and the 24th Sunday of the year A7 and the eighth Sunday of the year B. Lent, it is played the 3rd and 7th Sunday. Finally, it is the 7th Psalm Easter Sunday.


  • In the Eastern Orthodox Church, this Psalm is known as the "First Antiphon" and is sung at the beginning of the Divine Liturgy after the first litany. In some Byzantine traditions, this Psalm, and the other two Antiphons (Psalm 145/146 and the Beatitudes) were dropped in favor of different Antiphons with petitions to Christ and the Theotokos. The monastic communities of Mount Athos and most Slavic Churches have retained the ancient practice of singing these prayers during the Divine Liturgy.[10]


Thesman found the psalm a declaration that God never betrays us, never abandons us, and never forgets ..... His mercy covers our mistakes and our human tendencies[11] while Coke, calls it an exquisite performance, very applicable to every deliverance: it may properly be said to describe the wonders of grace,[12] This Psalm is one continued hymn of praise, and includes a comprehensive view of the goodness of Jehovah, in all the great works of creation and redemption[13] while Barnes called it exceedingly regular in its structure and composition; beautiful in its language and conceptions; adapted to all times and ages; suited to express the feelings of gratitude to God for deliverance from trouble, and for the manifestation of his mercy; suited to elevate the soul, and to fill it with cheerful views.[14]

Use in music[edit]

Psalm 103 is the source of the English hymn Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven (Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven), written in the nineteenth century by Henry Francis Lyte. In the 16th century, Claudin de Sermisy used the text.

  • The song Bless The Lord in the musical Godspell is based on this Psalm.


  1. ^ LePeau, Phyllis J. (2001-08-02). Kindness: Reaching Out to Others. Zondervan. p. 55. ISBN 978-0-310-23866-9. , attributed to The New Bible Commentary, 552.
  2. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 403
  3. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 125
  4. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 127
  5. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 139
  6. ^ The Complete Artscroll Machzor for Rosh Hashanah page 273
  7. ^ The Complete Artscroll Siddur page 66
  8. ^ D’après le Complete Artscroll Siddur, compilation des prières juives.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Krivoshein, Basil. "Some differences between Greek and Russian divine services and their significance". Retrieved 4 July 2013. 
  11. ^ R. J. Thesman, A Meditation on Psalm 103.
  12. ^ Coke, Thomas. Commentary on Psalms 103:1.
  13. ^ Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 103:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary".
  14. ^ Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, (1834),

External links[edit]