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This Psalm was written by King David, and addressed to the "director", thought to be the musical director. David's inspired pen was focused on the majesty of God and His handiwork as Creator, as well as on His direct revelation through Moses, referred to as His "Law". In the first verses, however, there are references to a message continually being preached by the "heavens", containing knowledge and going out to all the world. Paul quotes this Psalm in Romans 10:18, identifying that message as the saving gospel, using it to show that the gospel was always available to Israel.

Romans 10:18 But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world.

But David was living at a time when there was little of the Gospel available in written revelation. It is inconceivable that there had never been written accounts of God's plan of salvation in all the ages between God's original promise in Eden, and David's time. Most of these had certainly been destroyed in the flood. Some scholars believe that some of the content of Genesis was available to Moses, having been passed down from Shem. This is based primarily on several passages in Genesis that contain wording which seem to acknowledge previous authors. (Genesis 2:4, 5:1, 6:9, 10:1, 11:10, 11:27, 25:12, 25:19, 36:1, 36:9, 37:2.) But we have no other evidence regarding printed or written materials from the ark.

It is this author's strongly-held belief that the pre-flood technology was a close rival of that existing today. The few pre-flood artifacts that have been found confirm that. The scientific principles upon which technology is based are universal, and are simple enough that given the right environment, technology is bound to emerge. The pre-flood environment was far superior to today's for such development. Particularly significant were the hundreds of years available to ancient men to develop their careers.

Based on this belief, it is this author's conclusion that the books in Noah's library were printed on thin paper, and the primitive environment after the flood left little chance for their survival, outside of the few scraps that God may have seen fit to have Moses incorporate into Genesis, before they, too, succumbed to the elements.

So between the flood and the time of David people had to depend on tradition for the gospel message. The original sources could only have been God's revelation, and whether the books containing the gospel plan were directly inspired or not is moot, since if they existed, none of them survive. But the people certainly had the saving gospel, as evidenced also by the statements of Job, who knew his Savior. Although often attributed to Solomon, David's son, the written account of Job may easily have been available for generations before David. The traditional story of Job could easily have been available, even if the manuscripts were not.

Others outside of Abraham's line also have been revealed to us as knowing and believing in God's promises. Melchisedek and Jethro are examples of such.

It is believed by many researchers that one method used to impress the gospel message on the mind, and to continually remind one of the story of salvation, was to illustrate the revealed message by drawing figures and symbols around the major star constellations. It is also widely believed that the signs of the zodiac were originally configured specifically for that purpose. Tradition attributes the authorship to Seth and Enoch. One important evidence for this point of view is in this Psalm itself.

Firm historical evidence shows the zodiac figures in essentially the same form in most ancient cultures, as far back as history can be traced, so it can be certain that they predate Babel. The Book of Job refers to several of the signs in a matter-of fact way, and even quotes God as claiming the zodiac as His own.

The visible and nearly-visible stars all have names, as do many of the more obscure. These names are remarkably uniform throughout all ancient cultures, and Scripture is plain that the names were given by God. (Isaiah 40:26, Psalms 147:4) Almost all the star names have gospel implications, and often the name of a star within a constellation directly suggests the figure representing that constellation.

Isaiah 40:26 Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these [things], that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that [he is] strong in power; not one faileth. * Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Psalms 147:4 He telleth the number of the stars; he calleth them all by [their] names. * He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.

For more details on the fascinating illustrations of God's plan of salvation woven into the pictorial signs of the zodiac and the star names, see the appended bibliography.

[For a summary, also see "Summary of the Meaning of the Constellations"]

It needs to be made clear, however, that we are in no way suggesting that astrology is, or ever was, allowed by God, or was useful to God-fearing people. The signs of the zodiac are merely a scientific ordering of the starry heavens, useful to astronomy from its earliest beginnings. Astrologers borrow this system, and give unjustifiable implications to it.

Astrologers have since ancient times attempted to correlate past and future events with these signs, and offer to help you plan your life around them. God's word in the Bible has always condemned this practice, since it is associated with pagan religions and the occult. In this day and age it is particularly absurd, since all the astrologer's charts are based on the star positions of 350 BC, and the wobble of the earth's axis has caused a six-week error in all their dates. Satan continues to use astrology, however, as an effective tool in attracting people deeper into the occult.

Astrology starts with giving you a birth "sign" derived from the positions of the sun and moon. Astrologers then "cast horoscope" claiming significant effects on your life of the planetary conjunctions and your birth signs. They also claim powers of divining all kinds of prophetic data, and forecasting how you can time your activities to obtain the greatest good. These things are condemned by God.

But abuses were not confined to astrology. Many actually worshiped the sun, moon, planets and comets. But worshiping the heavenly bodies is neither astronomy nor astrology, and there are many more Scriptural warnings against this practice than against astrology. See Deuteronomy 4:19, appended.

And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, [even] all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. * And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars-- all the heavenly array-- do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.

Based on the thesis that the gospel was originally revealed to mankind, who then illustrated it in the starry heavens, the Psalm is an ode to God's magnificent revelation.

The Psalm is part of the emerging written revelation. There is a transition taking place, where people like us will ultimately have God's full, perfect revelation, whereas formerly mankind had to rely on the traditional word of mouth transmission of God's word. Since the most stable representations were the images woven into the stars (providing one accurately knew the story connected with each one), it would be good poetic practice to impart knowledge to the heavens themselves. We know there is a danger here, since Satan undoubtedly induced people into astrology and the occult originally by suggesting that we need not bother with God's word, saying that you can learn about God, and so much more, just by staring at the stars.

It is a very common literary idiom, however, to endow the medium transmitting the information with the ability to have generated it, particularly in poetry.

So we see verses 1-6 extolling the starry heavens as the revealer and narrator of God's glory and knowledge, or particularly those parts of God's revelations which are so important as to have been illustrated for posterity in the stars.

Verses 7-11 speak of God's written law, as given through Moses and the early prophets. Finally verses 12-14 show the value of the revelation in disclosing sins against the law, and acknowledging that God, the lawgiver, is also our Redeemer.

So it is a three-part refrain on revelation: oral, written, and received. This can also be seen as being divided into gospel, law, and response.

I. The Gospel in the Stars, God's Oral Revelation

(Because of the non-traditional approach being taken, a word-for-word dictionary is provided for this section. The numbers are Strong's word numbers. The rest of the Psalm also has word numbers in the appendix, and the definitions are given there as well.) (TWOT refers to "Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament")

1 To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

This would appear to speak of creation. The heavens must refer to the stars, as empty skies or space hardly provide tangible subject matter. The beauty and magnificence of the stars certainly reveal the power and majesty of their Creator. This could encompass the "glory of God". The redundant phrase reinforces that idea with "handywork".

The "Glory of God" also is sometimes thought to refer to Christ. "Handywork" is more literally "work of his hands". Notice that ma{at}aseh (work) can mean a deed or an entire career. If Christ's work of redemption is meant, then this verse is more consistent with subsequent verses.

Some commentators extend this verse to include all of creation. This is clearly unwarranted, since only the stars are mentioned, and the context fails to substantiate it. Another connection that is often made and cannot be easily defended is that this illustrates the universal awareness that mankind has of his Creator, particularly as Paul refers to it in Romans 1:20.

For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Paul does not quote this Psalm here, however, whereas he does quote it elsewhere in the same epistle. The narrow scope of the Psalm, the starry hosts, compared to the wide range of creation evidences in nature, rules out this connotation.

2 Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.

The subject of this passage must be the heavens from verse one. The Hebrew words are much stronger than the AV English. They say that speech literally gushes forth, and contains certain knowledge, or wisdom and discernment. The starry heavens liberally dispense God's richest perceptions, His good news to man.

3 [There is] no speech nor language, [where] their voice is not heard.

Just as everybody on earth can see the stars, so every language has had the message repeated by pious men who have been told the life-giving stories illustrated in the stars.

4 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,

The word translated "line" is qav, which is used several times in the OT to refer to a tape measure, a symbol of the Lord's judgment. This hardly fits the context here. Besides, this verse is quoted in Romans 10:18, and the Greek translation used is "phthoggos", and translated "sound" in the AV. The NIV uses "voice" in both cases. Our dictionary suggests that phthoggos refers strictly to a musical sound, and the only other use of the word in the New Testament speaks of the sound of harps and flutes, or pipes. To be consistent, if we use the anthropomorphic term "voice" it would be a singing voice. There is a similar statement in Job 38:7, where the stars were said to sing.

"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? (NIV)

The Romans passage is offered by Paul as proof that the saving gospel was available to ancient people, who heard it, and it establishes that the clear understanding of the passage is that the Gospel has gone into all the earth, through words gone out to the ends of the world. It is their words. And in them He has constructed a tabernacle for the sun. This re-establishes in the clearest way possible that there is no other meaning of "the heavens" than the sky, filled as it is with stars.

The "tabernacle" for the sun is in keeping with the ancient astronomical terminology. Since many ancient astronomers were also astrologers, many terms were used by both. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish between mythological or occultist terms and respectable scientific terms. A good rule of thumb is to ask if the concept serves a legitimate scientific function, and if so, the term is appropriate. The zodiacal regions are called "houses" by astrologers and also "signs". The modern astronomer can precisely record the location of a celestial object by its "declination" and "right ascension". But for an informal term for a position in the sky, he still chooses between "house" and "sign", which were the ancient astronomer's terms. For example, the "sign of Pisces" (the fishes) was often in ancient times called the "house of the Hebrews".

The word 'ohel is literally "tent", and is the word used for God's sacred place, the "tabernacle". It can mean "home", but denotes a temporary nature. It is a scientific fact that during the course of a year the sun "dwells for one month in each major house of the zodiac".

5 Which [is] as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, [and] rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.

The similarity to astronomical terminology continues with "chamber". This is rarely found today outside of astrology, where it presumably is appealing because of its exotic, or occultist sound. But the ancient astronomers used it somewhat interchangeably with "house". An example is found in Job 9.9

Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. (NIV: He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.)

(This passage from Job and the passage in the Psalm actually use two different words for "chamber". However, the parallelism is legitimate, since their meaning is identical. Both come from root verbs, one meaning to "cover over", and the other meaning to "enclose".)

6 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 Psalmist completes this section with poetry about the sun that also tends to emphasize that the circuits of the heavens are visible and inescapable to all creatures.

II. The Scriptures, God's Law

7 The law of the LORD [is] perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD [is] sure, making wise the simple.

8 The statutes of the LORD [are] right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD [is] pure, enlightening the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired [are they] than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

God's holy Scriptures are perfect, not in the sense of being complete when the Psalm was written, but in the sense of inerrancy. Today they are also complete, and God's Living Word still applies as if it were written yesterday. It still converts, and makes wise. It is more precious than gold, and sweeter than honey.

III Our Response

11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: [and] in keeping of them [there is] great reward.

The various roles played by the Law, as developed in the Luther's Catechism, are summarized in this passage.

12 Who can understand [his] errors? cleanse thou me from secret [faults].

Here the Psalmist admits that sins cannot be avoided, since they cannot even be recognized. He prays for guidance, and more importantly for forgiveness. Cleanse, he requests. Here the gospel is evident. We may ask for cleansing, and will be washed white as snow.

13 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.

Here the prayer is for strength beyond our nature, to restrain from willfully breaking God's laws. Such restraint will ultimately prevent falling into that deadliest of all sin against the Holy Spirit, persistent unbelief.

14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

The Psalmist concludes by asking God's blessing on all the content of the Psalm, acknowledges God as his Creator and Owner, his Source of all physical sustenance and spiritual strength, and his Savior from all the eternal consequences of breaking the very divine law he has just so eloquently honored.


The understanding here proposed for the Psalm cannot be justified without accepting in essence the background supplied. Much, but not all, of the scriptural evidence for this position comes from the Psalm itself, and from the quotation from the Psalm in Romans. The author believes it to be the correct understanding. There is much secular evidence for this point of view, but often it is circumstantial, or otherwise inconclusive. The author is most concerned that he may appear to be endorsing astrology or any kind of occult practices, or even worse, that a reader of this material should be led into believing that any such practices are allowed by Scripture.

As intriguing as these ideas are, if it can be found that any clearer words of Scripture are violated by them, then they must be abandoned.

The value of this understanding is that it eliminates some real difficulties in interpretation of the Psalm. First, the Psalm seems at first glance to endorse astrology. It seems to say that the stars are directly dispensing knowledge, the astrologer's major claim. To avoid that, pious commentator's have developed the idea that the wording can be used to imply that all of creation is embodied in "the heavens". We know that the whole of creation is capable of dispensing some limited knowledge, commonly referred to as the "natural knowledge of God". But we have shown that implication to violate the context of the Psalm. So we are left with the apparent endorsement of astrology.

The second problem eliminated by this understanding is an apparent contradiction from the book of Romans. Understanding the Psalm as an ode to the glory of the Creator, reflected in His creation, we have Paul's statement that clearly has the Psalm speaking to the universal spread of the gospel. This is an irreconcilable contradiction. We can try to plead poetic license in the Psalm, but where does that leave Paul, trying to make a serious logical conclusion?

Are there worse problems introduced by this understanding? If so, the author is ignorant of them.

So this discourse concludes as does the Psalm: Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

Soli Deo Gloria



For Psalm 19 displayed in Lexicon form, click HERE.

For more on the Stars, visit TCCSA Article Archive.


Bullinger, E. W. Witness of the Stars. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1893, 1967.

Fleming, K. C. God's Voice in the Stars. Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux, 1981

Rolleston, Frances. Mazzaroth. Keswick, England: 1863

Seiss, J. A. The Gospel in the Stars. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1882, 1979