"Bless the LORD, O my soul"
Psalm 103 in Luttrell Psalter c. 1325–1335
Psalm 103 is the 103rd psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "Bless the LORD, O my soul". The Book of Psalms is part of the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 102 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Benedic anima mea Domino". The psalm is a hymn psalm.
The first verse attributes the psalm to King David. The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies. The psalm has been paraphrased in hymns, and has been set to music often.
Background and themes
Baptist preacher and biblical commentator Charles Spurgeon suggests that the psalm was written in David's later life, as seen by the psalmist's focus on the frailty of life and his "higher sense of the preciousness of pardon, because a keener sense of sin". Spurgeon divides the psalm into three sections:
- Verses 1–5: The Psalmist's personal experience of God's compassion;
- Verses 6–19: The attributes of God as seen in his interactions with his people;
- Verses 20–22: The Psalmist's call to all creatures to join him in blessing God.
Lutheran minister Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg notes that the number of verses in the psalm parallels the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and that the concluding words repeat the opening words, "finishing" and "rounding off" the psalm into a complete whole. Nonconformist minister Matthew Henry also notes this circular form, stating: "Blessing God and giving him glory must be the alpha and the omega of all our services".
The Midrash Tehillim offers several explanations of the first verse, among them:
Rabbi Levi said in the name of Rabbi Hama: A sculptor makes a statue; the sculptor dies, but his sculpture endures. It is not thus with the Holy One, blessed be He. The Holy One made man, and man dies, but the Holy One lives and endures. … Another comment: A sculptor makes a statue, but cannot make a soul or vital organs. But the Holy One made a statue, man, and within him made a soul and vital organs. Therefore, David offered praise, "Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name".
The opening words, "Bless the LORD, O my soul", appear again at the beginning of Psalm 104, reinforcing the thematic connection between these psalms. But Patrick D. Miller also sees Psalm 103 as a logical extension of Psalm 102, pointing out that "one may see [Psalm] 102 as opening issues and questions to which [Psalm] 103 offers the solution or answer". For example, in Psalm 102 the psalmist blames his illness and pain on God's "indignation and anger" (verse 10), while Psalm 103 makes it clear that divine anger is not the final word, nor will it last forever.
Hebrew Bible version
|1||לְדָוִ֨ד בָּֽרְכִ֣י נַ֖פְשִׁי אֶת־יְהֹוָ֑ה וְכָל־קְ֜רָבַ֗י אֶת־שֵׁ֥ם קָדְשֽׁוֹ|
|2||בָּֽרְכִ֣י נַ֖פְשִׁי אֶת־יְהֹוָ֑ה וְאַל־תִּ֜שְׁכְּחִ֗י כָּל־גְּמוּלָֽיו|
|3||הַסֹּלֵ֥חַ לְכָל־עֲוֹנֵ֑כִי הָ֜רֹֽפֵ֗א לְכָל־תַּֽחֲלוּאָֽיְכִי|
|4||הַגּוֹאֵ֣ל מִשַּׁ֣חַת חַיָּ֑יְכִי הַֽ֜מְעַטְּרֵ֗כִי חֶ֣סֶד וְרַֽחֲמִֽים|
|5||הַמַּשְׂבִּ֣יַע בַּטּ֣וֹב עֶדְיֵ֑ךְ תִּתְחַדֵּ֖שׁ כַּנֶּ֣שֶׁר נְעוּרָֽיְכִי|
|6||עֹשֵׂ֣ה צְדָק֣וֹת יְהֹוָ֑ה וּ֜מִשְׁפָּטִ֗ים לְכָל־עֲשׁוּקִֽים|
|7||יוֹדִ֣יעַ דְּרָכָ֣יו לְמֹשֶׁ֑ה לִבְנֵ֥י יִ֜שְׂרָאֵ֗ל עֲלִֽילוֹתָיו|
|8||רַח֣וּם וְחַנּ֣וּן יְהֹוָ֑ה אֶ֖רֶךְ אַפַּ֣יִם וְרַב־חָֽסֶד|
|9||לֹֽא־לָנֶ֥צַח יָרִ֑יב וְלֹ֖א לְעוֹלָ֣ם יִטּֽוֹר|
|10||לֹ֣א כַֽ֖חֲטָאֵינוּ עָ֣שָׂה לָ֑נוּ וְלֹ֥א כַֽ֜עֲוֹנֹתֵ֗ינוּ גָּ֘מַ֥ל עָלֵֽינוּ|
|11||כִּ֚י כִגְבֹ֣הַּ שָׁ֖מַיִם עַל־הָאָ֑רֶץ גָּ֘בַ֥ר חַ֜סְדּ֗וֹ עַל־יְרֵאָֽיו|
|12||כִּרְחֹ֣ק מִ֖זְרָח מִֽמַּֽעֲרָ֑ב הִרְחִ֥יק מִ֜מֶּ֗נּוּ אֶת־פְּשָׁעֵֽינוּ|
|13||כְּרַחֵ֣ם אָ֖ב עַל־בָּנִ֑ים רִ֘חַ֥ם יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה עַל־יְרֵאָֽיו|
|14||כִּ֣י ה֖וּא יָדַ֣ע יִצְרֵ֑נוּ זָ֜כ֗וּר כִּֽי־עָ֘פָ֥ר אֲנָֽחְנוּ|
|15||אֱנוֹשׁ כֶּֽחָצִ֣יר יָמָ֑יו כְּצִ֥יץ הַ֜שָּׂדֶ֗ה כֵּ֣ן יָצִֽיץ|
|16||כִּ֚י ר֣וּחַ עָֽבְרָה־בּ֣וֹ וְאֵינֶ֑נּוּ וְלֹֽא־יַכִּירֶ֖נּוּ ע֣וֹד מְקוֹמֽוֹ|
|17||וְחֶ֚סֶד יְהֹוָ֨ה מֵֽעוֹלָ֣ם וְעַד־עוֹלָם עַל־יְרֵאָ֑יו וְ֜צִדְקָת֗וֹ לִבְנֵ֥י בָנִֽים|
|18||לְשֹֽׁמְרֵ֥י בְרִית֑וֹ וּלְזֹֽכְרֵ֥י פִ֜קֻּדָ֗יו לַֽעֲשׂוֹתָֽם|
|19||יְֽהוָ֗ה בַּ֖שָּׁמַיִם הֵכִ֣ין כִּסְא֑וֹ וּ֜מַלְכוּת֗וֹ בַּכֹּ֥ל מָשָֽׁלָה|
|20||בָּֽרְכ֥וּ יְהֹוָ֗ה מַלְאָ֫כָ֥יו גִּבֹּ֣רֵי כֹחַ עֹשֵׂ֣י דְבָר֑וֹ לִ֜שְׁמֹ֗עַ בְּק֣וֹל דְּבָרֽוֹ|
|21||בָּֽרְכ֣וּ יְ֖הֹוָה כָּל־צְבָאָ֑יו מְ֜שָׁרְתָ֗יו עֹ֘שֵׂ֥י רְצוֹנֽוֹ|
|22||בָּֽ֘רְכ֚וּ יְהֹוָ֨ה כָּל־מַֽעֲשָׂ֗יו בְּכָל־מְקֹמ֥וֹת מֶמְשַׁלְתּ֑וֹ בָּֽ֘רְכִ֥י נַ֜פְשִׁ֗י אֶת־יְהֹוָֽה|
King James Version
- Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
- Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
- Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases;
- Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
- Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
- The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed.
- He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
- The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.
- He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
- He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
- For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him.
- As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.
- Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.
- For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.
- As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth.
- For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.
- But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children;
- To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
- The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heavens; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
- Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.
- Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure.
- Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.
In the Liturgy of the Hours, Psalm 103 is sung or recited today 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 on Easter Sunday.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church this psalm is one of the six psalms of Orthros (Matins) read every morning outside of Bright Week. It is also the first of the "Typical Psalms" of the Typica, which is read in place of the Divine Liturgy when the latter is not celebrated on days it is permitted to be. It is frequently sung as the first antiphon of the Divine Liturgy, but there it is often replaced by another antiphon on great feasts and on many weekdays, and is always thus replaced in Greek practice (except on Mount Athos).
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 while Coke, calls it an exquisite performance, very applicable to every deliverance: it may properly be said to describe the wonders of grace, 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 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.
The Old Testament scholar Bernhard Duhm considers the Psalm a "compilation of all sorts of beautiful sentences from a fairly extensive reading."
Psalm 103 is the basis of several hymns. A paraphrase of Psalm 103 in German is "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren", written by Johann Gramann in 1525, which was translated by Catherine Winkworth as "My Soul, now Praise thy Maker!" and published in 1863. English hymns include "Praise, my soul, the King of Heaven", written in the nineteenth century by Henry Francis Lyte, and "Sing to the Lord and praise him".
In the 16th century, Claudin de Sermisy set the psalm.
In contemporary music, the song "Bless the Lord" in the musical Godspell is based on this psalm. "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman and Jonas Myrin takes lyrics from this psalm, as does "The Lord is Gracious and Compassionate" by Vineyard Worship.
- Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 102 (103 Archived 2017-05-07 at the Wayback Machine medievalist.net
- Pankhurst 2018.
- Spurgeon, Charles (2020). "Psalm 103 Bible Commentary". Christianity.com. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
- Henry, Matthew (2020). "Psalms 103". Bible Study Tools. Retrieved 22 February 2020.
- "Midrash Tehillim / Psalms 103" (PDF). matsati.com. October 2012. Retrieved 22 February 2020. password: www.matsati.com
- Miller 2013, p. 83.
- Scherman 2003, p. 402.
- Brauner, Reuven (2013). "Shimush Pesukim: Comprehensive Index to Liturgical and Ceremonial Uses of Biblical Verses and Passages" (PDF) (2nd ed.). p. 45.
- Scherman 1985, p. 272.
- Scherman 2003, p. 66.
- Kirkpatrick, A. F. (1901). The Book of Psalms: with Introduction and Notes. The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges. Book IV and V: Psalms XC–CL. Cambridge: At the University Press. p. 839. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
- "La distribution des Psaumes dans la Règle de Saint Benoît - Mont de Cats". www.abbaye-montdescats.fr.
- Krivoshein, Basil. "Some differences between Greek and Russian divine services and their significance". Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- R. J. Thesman, A Meditation on Psalm 103.
- Coke, Thomas. Commentary on Psalms 103:1.
- Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 103:1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary".
- Albert Barnes, Notes on the Bible, (1834)
- Bernhard Duhm, Psalmen (1922), p. 371
- "10,000 Reasons". Word to Worship. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
- Miller, Patrick D. (2013). The Lord of the Psalms. Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 978-0664239275.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Pankhurst, Jennifer (2018). "The Conventions of Biblical Poetry". myjewishlearning.com. Retrieved 3 April 2018.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Scherman, Rabbi Nosson (1985). The Complete Artscroll Machzor – Rosh Hashanah (1st ed.). Mesorah Publications Ltd. ISBN 978-0-89906-676-9.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
- Scherman, Rabbi Nosson (2003). The Complete Artscroll Siddur (3rd ed.). Mesorah Publications, Ltd. ISBN 978-0899066509.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psalm 103.|
- Pieces with text from Psalm 103: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Psalm 103: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Text of Psalm 103 according to the 1928 Psalter
- Psalms Chapter 103 text in Hebrew and English, mechon-mamre.org
- Bless the LORD, my soul; all my being, bless his holy name! United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Psalm 103:1 introduction and text, biblestudytools.com
- Psalm 103 – Help Quickly, O Lord enduringword.com
- Psalm 103 / Refrain: Come to me quickly, O God. Church of England
- Psalm 103 at biblegateway.com
- Tehillim – Psalm 103 (Judaica Press) translation with Rashi's commentary at Chabad.org