“Day to Day Gushes Forth Speech”

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1–2, ESV)

Translating and understanding Hebrew can be quite the chore, we are at such a great cultural distance that sometimes we have to do our best guess as to what the writer meant.  Words and expressions which no doubt made perfect sense to those who read them in the Hebrew culture may make no sense at all to the 21st century reader, or little sense anyway.  This is never more true than when dealing with Hebrew poetry.

As an example take the opening lines to the poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot:

Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

 

Now imagine that you live in China 2000 years in the future and speak Mandarin of 2000 years from now and you are trying to understand this poem in English, not so easy is it.

We have the same problem with Hebrew poetry. For instance, what does vs. 2 mean?

Day to day pours out [literally “gushes forth”] speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:2, ESV)

We know from the context that David is writing about how what is created declares the glory of God, what then does he mean about that greatness from vs. 2?

A Handbook on Psalms, which is a book written for people who are translating Psalms into other languages helps us out a lot to see the vibrancy and color of what David means here. It reads:

Speech in line a and knowledge in line b have to do with the proclamation of God’s glory; line a means “Each day talks about God’s glory to the next day,” and line b means “Every night shares its knowledge of God with the following night.”

What David means then is that God’s glory is proclaimed by God’s creation as one day folds into the next day and his greatness is shared from one night to the next night while all that takes place from the rising to the setting of the sun, and the phases of the moon and the tides, and the animals that are nocturnal, and the heat of the day which turns into the cool of night, and everything that goes on proclaims that there is a Creator God who made all that is and all of it is singing [if we are willing to listen] in one grand chorus: “God who created all things is great and greatly to be praised!”

Charles Spurgeon writes:

As if one day took up the story where the other left it, and each night passed over the wondrous tale to the next. The original has in it the thought of pouring out or welling over, with speech; as though days and nights were but as a fountain flowing evermore with Jehovah’s praise.

Oh to drink often at the celestial well, and learn to utter the glory of God! The witnesses above cannot be slain or silenced; from their elevated seats they constantly preach the knowledge of God, unawed and unbiased by the judgment of men. Even the changes of alternating night and day are mutely eloquent, and light and shade equally reveal the Invisible One; let the vicissitudes of our circumstances do the same, and while we bless the God of our days of joy, let us also extol him who giveth “songs in the night.”

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