|"The heavens declare the glory of God"|
|Text||attributed to David|
Psalm 19 is the 19th psalm in the Book of Psalms, known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in the Latin Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 18 in a slightly different numbering system. The Latin version begins "Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei". The psalm is attributed to David.
The psalm considers the glory of God in creation, and moves to reflect on the character and use of "the law of the LORD". It is a regular part of Jewish, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox Church and Protestant liturgies. It has been set to music often, notably by Heinrich Schütz, by Johann Sebastian Bach who began a cantata with its beginning, by Joseph Haydn, who based a movement from Die Schöpfung on the psalm, and by Beethoven who set a paraphrase by Gellert in "Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre".
Background and themes
- 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).
According to the Baptist preacher Charles 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".
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".
On the matter of unity, Artur Weiser states that the first part (verses 1 to 7) are a completely distinct song from the second (verses 8 to 15). He upholds that not only the subjects, but also the metrics, the language and the tone are distinct and the two parts could not have been composed by the same author. Lewis, on the other hand, indicates nature as "an index, a symbol, a manifestation, of the Divine" and he points that here "the searching and cleansing sun becomes an image of the searching and cleansing Law", on which he suppresses the idea of these two subjects not being correlated. Rav Elchanan Samet identifies the same problems that Weiser did: "These two halves are strikingly different from one another in their content as well as in their style, to the point that it is difficult to point to verbal, stylistic, or conceptual connections between them." Nonetheless, he points that these two parts have been in unity since the Septuagint and agrees with it, "the inclination to adopt this [critical] solution is liable to stem from intellectual laziness." 
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.
Hebrew Bible version
Following is the Hebrew text of Psalm 19:
|1||לַֽ֜מְנַצֵּ֗חַ מִזְמ֥וֹר לְדָוִֽד|
|2||הַשָּׁמַ֗יִם מְסַפְּרִ֥ים כְּבוֹד־אֵ֑ל וּמַֽעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָ֜דָ֗יו מַגִּ֥יד הָֽרָקִֽיעַ|
|3||י֣וֹם לְ֖יוֹם יַבִּ֣יעַ אֹ֑מֶר וְלַ֥יְלָה לְּ֜לַ֗יְלָה יְחַוֶּה־דָּֽעַת|
|4||אֵ֣ין אֹ֖מֶר וְאֵ֣ין דְּבָרִ֑ים בְּ֜לִ֗י נִשְׁמָ֥ע קוֹלָֽם|
|5||בְּכָל־הָאָ֨רֶץ יָצָ֚א קַוָּ֗ם וּבִקְצֵ֣ה תֵ֖בֵל מִלֵּיהֶ֑ם לַ֜שֶּׁ֗מֶשׁ שָׂ֤ם אֹ֥הֶל בָּהֶֽם|
|6||וְה֗וּא כְּ֖חָתָן יֹצֵ֣א מֵֽחֻפָּת֑וֹ יָשִׂ֥ישׂ כְּ֜גִבּ֗וֹר לָר֥וּץ אֹֽרַח|
|7||מִקְצֵ֚ה הַשָּׁמַ֨יִם מֽוֹצָא֗וֹ וּתְקֽוּפָת֥וֹ עַל־קְצוֹתָ֑ם וְאֵ֥ין נִ֜סְתָּ֗ר מֵֽחַמָּתֽוֹ|
|8||תּ֘וֹרַ֚ת יְהֹוָ֣ה תְּ֖מִימָה מְשִׁ֣יבַת נָ֑פֶשׁ עֵד֖וּת יְהֹוָ֥ה נֶֽ֜אֱמָנָ֗ה מַחְכִּ֥ימַת פֶּֽתִי|
|9||פִּקּ֘וּדֵ֚י יְהֹוָ֣ה יְ֖שָׁרִים מְשַׂמְּחֵי־לֵ֑ב מִצְוַ֖ת יְהֹוָ֥ה בָּ֜רָ֗ה מְאִירַ֥ת עֵינָֽיִם|
|10||יִרְאַ֚ת יְהֹוָ֨ה טְהוֹרָה֘ עוֹמֶ֪דֶת לָ֫עַ֥ד מִשְׁפְּטֵֽי־יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱמֶ֑ת צָֽדְק֥וּ יַחְדָּֽו|
|11||הַנֶּֽחֱמָדִ֗ים מִ֖זָּהָב וּמִפָּ֣ז רָ֑ב וּמְתוּקִ֥ים מִ֜דְּבַ֗שׁ וְנֹ֣פֶת צוּפִֽים|
|12||גַּם־עַ֖בְדְּךָ נִזְהָ֣ר בָּהֶ֑ם בְּ֜שָׁמְרָ֗ם עֵ֣קֶב רָֽב|
|13||שְׁגִיא֥וֹת מִֽי־יָבִ֑ין מִנִּסְתָּר֥וֹת נַקֵּֽנִי|
|14||גַּ֚ם מִזֵּדִ֨ים חֲשׂ֬ךְ עַבְדֶּ֗ךָ אַל־יִמְשְׁלוּ־בִ֖י אָ֥ז אֵיתָ֑ם וְ֜נִקֵּ֗יתִי מִפֶּ֥שַֽׁע רָֽב|
|15||יִֽהְי֥וּ לְרָצ֨וֹן אִמְרֵי־פִ֡י וְהֶגְי֣וֹן לִבִּ֣י לְפָנֶ֑יךָ יְ֜הֹוָ֗ה צוּרִ֥י וְגֹֽאֲלִֽי|
King James Version
- The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
- Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
- There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
- Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun,
- Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
- His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
- The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
- The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
- The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
- More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
- Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
- Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
- Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
- Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.
Psalm 19 is recited in its entirety during the Pesukei dezimra of Shabbat and Yom Tov. It is also recited as the psalm of the day on Shavuot in the Gra siddur. In Siddur Avodas Yisroel, it is recited as the psalm of the day on Chanukah, and as the Shabbat psalm for the Torah portion of Yitro. Some say this psalm on a wedding day, and as a prayer for heavenly guidance.
Verse 15 (in the Hebrew) is recited in several parts of the Jewish prayer service, including: at the conclusion of the Amidah; during the removal of the Torah scroll from the Ark on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Yom Tov; as part of Selichos; and at the conclusion of Tefillah Zakah, a prayer for Yom Kippur eve.
Psalm 19 has been set to music several times.
In France, Jean-Joseph Cassanéa de Mondonville compose in 1749, le grand motet de type versaillais "Cæli enarrant gloriam Dei " and Camille Saint-Saëns compose in 1865 one "Cæli enarrant" (Psaume XVIII) op. 42.
Notable settings to German texts include:
- Heinrich Schütz in Die Himmel, Herr, preisen Dein göttliche Macht und Ehr - SWV 115 (1628)
- Johann Sebastian Bach in the cantata Die Himmel erzählen die Ehre Gottes, BWV 76 (1723)
- Joseph Haydn in "Die Himmel erzählen" ("The Heavens are Telling") – the chorus at the end of part 1 of his oratorio Die Schöpfung (1798)
- Ludwig van Beethoven in his 1803 song for voice and piano, "Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre", setting a paraphrase by Gellert in "Die Himmel rühmen des Ewigen Ehre", a song from an 1803 lieder collection.
In Protestant Christianity, various metrical setting of Psalm 19 have been published, including "The heav'ns and firmament on high do wondrously declare" in The Whole Booke of Psalmes (Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins, 1584)  and "The heav’ns God’s glory do declare" in the Scottish Psalter (1650).
The Rastafarian song "Rivers of Babylon" (recorded 1970 by The Melodians) includes a reference to the Amidah through verse 14 of Psalm 19 in English together with a reference to Psalm 137 that was written in memory of the first destruction of Zion (Jerusalem) by the Babylonians in 586 BC (the city and the Second Temple was destroyed a second time in 70 AD by the Romans). This song was also popularized as a cover recorded by Boney M. in 1978.
"Torat Hashem Temimah" (The word of God is perfect), consisting of the first five words of verse 8 (in the Hebrew), is a popular Jewish song.
- Parallel Latin/English Psalter / Psalmus 18 (19) Archived 2017-05-07 at the Wayback Machine medievalist.net
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- C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1958), ISBN 0-15-676248-X p.69
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- "Psalter of the Divine Office according to the Rule of Saint Benedict". Rosarychurch.net. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved 2013-01-31.
- "Coeli enarrant". Hymnary.org. Archived from the original on June 6, 2020. Retrieved 6 June 2020.
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- National Park Service, Abraham Lincoln: Words Inscribed on the Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Psalm 19.|
- Pieces with text from Psalm 19: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Psalm 19: Free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (ChoralWiki)
- Psalm 19 in Hebrew and English - Mechon-mamre
- Text of Psalm 19 according to the 1928 Psalter
- For the leader. A psalm of David. / The heavens declare the glory of God; / the firmament proclaims the works of his hands text and footnotes, usccb.org United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Psalm 19:1 introduction and text, biblestudytools.com
- Psalm 19 – The Heavens, the Word, and the Glory of God enduringword.com
- Psalm 19 / Refrain: The commandment of the Lord is pure / and gives light to the eyes. Church of England
- Hymns for Psalm 19 hymnary.org
- Rabbi Benjamin Segal's commentary on Psalm 19
- Matthew Henry's commentary on Psalm 19 (Matthew Henry (1662–1714) was a post-Reformation scholar)
- Charles Spurgeon's commentary on Psalm 19 (Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) was England's best-known preacher for the second half of the 19th century.)