What does it mean that God has pitched a tent for the sun?


Psalms 19:4

NIV - 4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.

Clarify Share Report Asked June 11 2014 Stringio Colin Wong Supporter

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Dave2 David P. Larsen
Great question. As a poet and a wordsmith, perhaps I can help us 'shed some light' on this verse. 

Much of the Scriptures contain literary tools such as metaphor (drawing comparisons), hyperbole (exaggerations), and Personification (giving human characteristics to inanimate objects). The use of these literary tools is common in literature, and can help us understand things that might be difficult otherwise, or at least be a fresh way to understand the concept more fully. This kind of literature is common in the poetic books like Psalms especially. This is one of the reasons they are considered to be some of the best poetic writings in the history of mankind. 

The first part of Psalm 19 is a good example of these literary devices. In my opinion it may be one of the best in all of Scripture and worth memorizing for its beauty and insight. 

Of course the writer is not saying in Psalm 19:4 that God put up a piece of fabric over the sun; it would be hopelessly naive to think that. It is obviously a metaphor that compares or explains who God is, what he is capable of. The preceding verses speak to the same thing; that is, the incredible vastness of the creation 'speaking' to us constantly about how incredibly big and great God really is. When we look at the sun, moon, and stars, can there really be any question that there is something really, really big out there that created all that. Interestingly, the more we study space and distant galaxies, the less we can really explain their existence and origin. These things are worth studying, but they are quite literally beyond our comprehension. Astronomers are some of the most intelligent people on earth, and yet there is more that we do not know, than what we do know about all there is to know about the 'heavens'. We could spend our whole lifetime studying these things (and some do), and never come close to the end of all the 'knowledge' that is 'communicated' (see vs. 2). What kind of power and knowledge could actually create, or make all this exist? Wow, Wow, and Wow. It is dishonest, or impossible to not be in awe of the greatness of the 'heavens' or space, and thus the one behind it all. This is the overall meaning of the first 4 verses in Psalm 19. God is so big He could put a tent over the sun, and then some.

Sometimes there can be some literal truth in these poetic passages, but of course it is dangerous to assume they always do. Most do not. They are just literary and not literal. Some poetic passages probably do give or reveal actual scientific hints, or facts, such as Proverbs 8:27, and Isaiah 40: 22 that may refer to the universe and earth being round, or 'circular' in shape. However it is important to understand that this is not the main meaning or purpose of these kinds of verses, but rather to again show the incredible greatness and glory of God. It would be a mistake to assume that everything referred to in a poetic passage can be taken as fact. For instance Isaiah 66:1 refers to the earth as the 'Lord's footstool'. It is very unlikely that there is any hidden knowledge or clue that God has any kind of actual 'feet' that he rests on the 'earth'. The correct meaning would be more accurately stated as God is so big and sovereign over the earth, it's like a 'footstool' to Him. 

Applying this to Psalm 19:4 then, it is possible that the 'tent' over the sun contains a scientific clue to something that is as yet not fully understood, such as some energy, or force that is over the sun that is perhaps covering, or pressing the universe into it's shape. However it is probably more likely that it's just referring to the grand greatness of God in a metaphorical and poetic way. 

Both His Creation, and His Word constantly speak to us about His incredible power, beauty, ability, and knowledge. We should be in awe and fear of all this. It's obvious as Paul stated in Romans (1:19-20). It is also the beginning of all wisdom (Psalm 111:10, Pr. 1:7, Pr. 9:10 & others).

January 02 2015 1 response Vote Up Share Report

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