19. He hath appointed the moon to distinguish seasons: the sun knoweth his going down. 20. Thou makest darkness, and it is night; wherein all the beasts of the forest creep forth. 21. The lions roar after their prey, and in seeking their food from God. 1 22. The sun shall rise, and they shall gather themselves together, and lie down in their dens. 2 23. Man shall go forth to his work, and to his labor, until the evening.
19. He hath appointed the moon to distinguish seasons. The Psalmist now comes to another commendation of God's providence as manifested in the beautiful arrangement by which the course of the sun and moon alternately succeeds each other; for the diversity in their mutual changes is so far from producing confusion, that all must easily perceive the impossibility of finding any better method of distinguishing time. When it is said, that the moon was appointed to distinguish seasons, interpreters agree that this is to be understood of the ordinary and appointed feasts. The Hebrews having been accustomed to compute their months by the moon, this served for regulating their festival days and assemblies, both sacred and political. 3 The prophet, I have no doubt, by the figure synecdoche, puts a part for the whole, intimating, that the moon not only distinguishes the days from the nights, but likewise marks out the festival days, measures years and months, and, in fine, answers many useful purposes, inasmuch as the distinction of times is taken from her course. As to the sentence, The sun knoweth his going down, I understand it not only of his daily circuit, but as also denoting that by gradually approaching nearer us at one time, and receding farther from us at another, he knows how to regulate his movements by which to make summer, winter, spring, and autumn. It is farther stated, that the beasts of the forest creep forth during the night, because they go out of their dens with fear. Some translate the verb smr, ramas, to walk; but its proper signification which I have given is not unsuitable; for although hunger often drives wild beasts into fury, yet they watch for the darkness of the night, that they may move abroad from their hiding-places, and on account of this fearfulness they are said to creep forth.
21. The lions roar after their prey. Although lions, if hunger compels them, go forth from their dens and roar even at noon-day, yet the prophet describes what is most usually the case. He therefore says, that lions do not venture to go abroad during the daytime, but that, trusting to the darkness of the night, they then sally forth in quest of their prey. Herein is manifested the wonderful providence of God, that a beast so dreadful confines itself within its den, that men may walk abroad with the greater freedom. And if lions sometimes range with greater liberty, this is to be imputed to the fall of Adam, which has deprived men of their dominion over the wild beasts. There are, however, still some remains of the original blessing conferred by God on men, inasmuch as he holds in check so many wild beasts by the light of day, as if by iron cages or chains. The expression, They seek their food from God, is not to be understood of their casting themselves upon the care of God, as if they acknowledged him to be their foster-father, but it points out the fact itself, that God in a wonderful manner provides food for such ravenous beasts.
22. The sun shall rise. The Psalmist continues to prosecute the same subject, showing that God so distributes the successions of time, as that the day belongs properly to man. Did not God put a restraint upon so many wild beasts which are hostile to us, the human race would soon become extinct. As wild beasts since the fall of man may seem to be born to do us hurt, and to rend and tear in pieces all whom they meet with, this savage cruelty must be kept under check by the providence of God. And in order to keep them shut up within their dens, the only means which he employs is to inspire them with terror, simply by the light of the sun. This instance of divine goodness, the prophet commends the more on account of its necessity; for were it otherwise, men would have no liberty to go forth to engage in the labors and business of life. Man being thus protected by the light against the violence and injuries of wild beasts, in this is to be seen the unparalleled goodness of God, who in so fatherly a manner has provided for his convenience and welfare.