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Psalm 137

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
An Experience of the Captivity
No MT Intro
Longing for Zion in a Foreign Land Prayer for Vengeance on Israel's Enemies
(A Lament)
A Lament of Israelites in Exile Song of the Exiles
137:1-3 137:1-3 137:1-3 137:1-3 137:1-2
        137:3
137:4-6 137:4-6 137:4-6 137:4-6 137:4-5
        137:6
137:7-9 137:7-9 137:7-9 137:7 137:7
      137:8-9 137:8-9

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 137:1-3
 1By the rivers of Babylon,
 There we sat down and wept,
 When we remembered Zion.
 2Upon the willows in the midst of it
 We hung our harps. 

3For there our captors demanded of us songs,
 And our tormentors mirth, saying,
 "Sing us one of the songs of Zion."

137:1 "By the rivers of Babylon" Possibly a better translation would be "by the waterways." The water system of Babylon of that day involved not only rivers but also manmade canals, like the Canal Chebar (cf. Ezek. 1:1).

We learn from Acts 16:13 that it was an ancient custom for cities with no synagogue to meet by the local river for worship. This may be the case here.

▣ "There we sat down and wept" Because of the combination of the words "sat" and "wept" this seems to relate to a funeral dirge setting. Sitting flat on the ground was a Jewish form of mourning.

▣ "we remembered Zion" It is interesting that in the Bible it was important for humans to remember (cf. Ps. 137:5 [implied],6,7). The term "exalt" in Ps. 137:6 is translated by the Jewish Publication Society of America, in their new translation, as "keep Jerusalem in memory as my happiest hour."

The term "Zion" is a synonym for the entire city of Jerusalem and the temple area located on Mt. Moriah (see Special Topic: Moriah, Salem, Jebus, Jerusalem, Zion). It is very hard for us to understand the full implication of Israel in exile. She had been promised a Davidic king forever (2 Sam. 7:10,13,16). She had been protected during the invasion of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, in Hezekiah's day (cf. Isaiah 37). However, Jeremiah told them that exile was imminent unless they repented and turned back to God. The Covenant (see SPECIAL TOPIC: COVENANT) had always been conditional (cf. 1 Sam. 13:12,13), but they relied on ancient traditions instead of personal relationships. Therefore, God's covenant was made inoperative (i.e., exile) in their day.

137:2 "the willows" Horticulturalists tell us that willows do not grow in the ANE but that this tree (BDB 788 II) is probably a type of poplar tree that grows along the Euphrates and Jordan Rivers. See UBS, Fauna and Flora of the Bible, p. 170. Some even suggest that the branches of this particular tree were used during the Feast of Tabernacles to build the booths that the people lived in.

▣ "We hung our harps" It is interesting to note that all of the verbs in Ps. 137:1-3 are in the perfect tense, which may imply that the author lived sometime later than the exile and was writing about a bitter past experience.

The RSV translates the term "harps" (BDB 490) as "lyres." It is very difficult to ascertain the exact kind of musical instruments involved because the names changed from culture to culture, as did the design of the instruments. It was a small stringed musical instrument.

137:3 "For there our captors. . .our tormentors" It has been suggested by some commentators that this verse is an example of the mockery committed by the Babylonian captors, but the term translated by NASB, "demanded," is, in reality, the much more simple Hebrew word "ask" (BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal perfect). It is quite possible that the Babylonians were only interested in the new type of music which the Jews produced. However, for the Jews, they could not sing religious songs in a foreign land because they were committed to the worship of YHWH, who had seemingly been defeated by Marduk. This was a time of great confusion for the Jews during this period of history. There was the concept in the ANE that whoever won the battle was empowered by their national gods. YHWH was willing for His own name to be impugned in order for His people to turn back in trust to Him.

Notice there are several words that begin with שׁ.

1. Ps. 137:3 verb, "ask" - BDB 981, KB 1371, Qal perfect

2. Ps. 137:3 participle, "captors" - BDB 985, KB 1382, Qal participle

3. Ps. 137:3 noun, "songs" - BDB 1010

4. Ps. 137:3 noun, "mirth" - BDB 970

5. Ps. 137:3 verb, "sing" - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

6. Ps. 137:4 noun, "songs" - BDB 1010

7. Ps. 137:4 verb, "sings' - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperfect

8. Ps. 137:4 noun, "song" - BDB 1010

9. Ps. 137:5 verb, "forget" - BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect

 10. Ps. 137:5 verb, "forget" - BDB 1013, KB 1489, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

 11. Ps. 137:6 noun, "joy" - BDB 970

 

▣ "our tormentors" This word (BDB 1064, KB 1700) is found only here. It could be

1. a parallel to "our captors" of Ps. 137:3a

2. "those who led us away" (REB), LXX, Peshitta, Vulgate

3. from another Hebrew root (הלל - BDB 237), "make a mockery of"

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 137:4-6
 4How can we sing the Lord's song
 In a foreign land?
 5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
 May my right hand forget her skill.
 6May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
 If I do not remember you,
 If I do not exalt Jerusalem
 Above my chief joy.

137:4 "How can we sing the Lord's song
 In a foreign land"
Some have identified this statement with the concept of national deities, but it seems to me that it refers more to the religious character of the songs and that it was impossible to sing praises to YHWH in the midst of such judgment and alienation. I'm sure that the Jews really wondered if God's covenant was forever broken, if He would ever love them again, and if there was any hope for their nation. God would answer these questions in a positive way in the future but at this period of time there was great confusion and misunderstanding.

▣ "Lord's" This is YHWH. See Special Topic: Names for Deity.

137:5 "If I forget you, O Jerusalem" This shows their faith amidst dark times. Psalm 137:5-6 is a self curse used for literary intensity!

▣ "May. . .May" These are both Qal imperfects used in a jussive sense.

▣ "my right hand forget her skill" Notice that the words "her skill" are italicized in the NASB, which means that they are not in the MT. Because the context is singing this may be an allusion to the fact that these Jewish musicians were apostacizing by singing religious songs while in captivity and may have lost their skill as musicians. This seems to be the emphasis in Ps. 137:6, which implies the loss of singing ability.

137:6 "If I do not exalt Jerusalem

Above my chief joy" The literal phrase, "above head," is unique and may refer to some cultic gesture or symbolic head covering. The LXX takes "head" as "beginning" or "origin" (see Special Topic: Head).

As is so often with these rare poetic words, it is best to remember that

1. the parallel gives us a clue

2. the etymology of cognate roots is often a pointer to meaning

3. the thrust of the Psalm as a whole

JPSOA has "keep Jerusalem in memory at my happiest hour."

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 137:7-9
 7Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom
 The day of Jerusalem,
 Who said, "Raze it, raze it
 To its very foundation."
 8O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
 How blessed will be the one who repays you
 With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
 9How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
 Against the rock.

137:7 "Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom" As humans are to remember God's grace, God is encouraged to forget (Qal imperative used in prayer) Israel's sins, for when God remembers it is usually in the context of judgment. That is exactly the purpose of this statement, that the God of vengeance, Deut. 32:35, will act fairly and justly toward the sons of Edom who violated their own relatives (i.e., the Jews). There is much biblical evidence that Edom participated in the siege, fall, and sack of Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 87:4-8; Jer. 49:7-22; Lam. 4:21; Ezek. 25:12-14; 35:1ff; Amos 1:11; Joel 3:19; and especially Obadiah 10-14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: EDOM AND ISRAEL.

▣ "Who said, ‘Raze it, raze it'" This is supposedly the words (two Piel imperatives) of the Edomites in the day that Jerusalem fell to Nebuchadnezzar's army. However, the new translation of the Jewish Publication of America has, "strip her, strip her." This is quite possible in light of Isa. 47:2-3; Lam. 1:8; Ezek. 16:37. The metaphor here is of a woman who is publicly shamed. This interpretation is bolstered by the fact that in the next phrase, "to its very foundation," can be translated as "buttocks" (BDB 414, KB 417, AB, p. 273). I think the first option is better.

137:8 "O daughter of Babylon" It is quite common to call nations by the term, "daughter of." This is a Hebrew idiom used to include an entire population. See full note at Jer. 46:11 online. It is interesting that the three verbs of Ps. 137:8 are repeated in Jer. 51:56.

NASB"you devastated one"
NKJV"you who are destroyed"
NRSV,
NASB margin"you devastator"
TEV"you will be destroyed"
NJB"doomed to destruction"
JPSOA,
Targums"you predator"
REB"the destroyer"

The UBS Text Project, p. 419, gives "devastated one" a "B" rating (some doubt). The differences between the options are

1. דודהשה - devastated one

2. דדהשה - devastating one

 

▣ "How blessed will be the one who repays you

 With the recompense with which you have repaid us" This is simply the OT example of the "eye for an eye" justice of Lev. 24:19-22; Deut. 19:19; repeated in Jeremiah 51. We Reap what we sow (often called "the two ways," cf. Job 34:11; Ps. 28:4; 62:12; Pro. 24:12,29; Eccl. 12:14; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Rom. 2:6; 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12).

There are six imprecatory (i.e., cursing) Psalms, i.e., Psalms 55; 59; 69; 79; 109; 137.

137:9 "dashes our little ones" This was a common practice in the ANE (cf. 2 Kgs. 8:12; Isa. 13:16,18; Hosea 10:14; Nahum 3:10). It is interesting to note that the specific prophecy mentioned in Isa. 13:16 was against Babylon. This seems to be a horrible example of the truth that what we sow, we reap. The historian, Prideaux, tells us that when Babylon came under siege that the women and children were killed in order that more food would be preserved for the military defenders of the city.

▣ "the rock" The noun (BD 700) has the definite article. It could refer to

1. a name for Petra (often called "the red" city), a capital in Edom (BDB 701, cf. 2 Kgs. 14:7)

2. a way of referring to idolatry, which is opposite of YHWH, "the true rock"

3. some emend the term to "Aram" (a country)

4. a way of referring to a hard surface, like a wall or side of a house. This fits the context and parallelism best.

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why was the Babylonian captivity such a theological crisis? 

2. How do these historical examples in the life of the nation of Israel apply to us in the Church?

3. Discuss the words "forget" and "remember" and how they are used in an OT setting. 

4. How does one compare the ancient practices of war in a moral sense with our own modern practices?

Psalm 138

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Thanksgiving for the Lord's Favor
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
The Lord's Goodness to the Faithful Thanksgiving and Deliverance from Trouble A Prayer of Thanksgiving Hymn of Thanksgiving
138:1-3 138:1-3 138:1-3 138:1-3 138:1-2a
        138:2b-3
138:4-6 138:4-6 138:4-6 138:4-6 138:4-6
138:7-8 138:7-8 138:7-8 138:7-8 138:7-8

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 138:1-3
 1I will give You thanks with all my heart; 
 I will sing praises to You before the gods.
 2I will bow down toward Your holy temple
 And give thanks to Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth;
 For You have magnified Your word according to all Your name.
 3On the day I called, You answered me;
 You made me bold with strength in my soul.

138:1-3 This strophe outlines what the psalmist will do (four imperfects used in a cohortative sense), while Ps. 138:4-6 reflects what the nations should do.

1. I will give You thanks - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will sing praises to You - BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

3. I will bow down towards Your holy temple - BDB 1005, KB 295, Hishtaphel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

4. I give thanks to - same as #1

YHWH answered him on the day he prayed and continues to answer him because

1. he is a faithful follower emboldened and strengthened by YHWH, Ps. 138:3b

2. of the character of YHWH

a. His name, Ps. 138:2b,c

b. His lovingkindness, Ps. 138:2b

c. His faithfulness, Ps. 138:2b

d. His word, Ps. 138:2c 

Notice the number of times the "k" sound closes words in Ps. 138:1-2.

1. I will give You thanks, Ps. 138:1

2. I will sing Your praise, Ps. 138:1

3. holy, Ps. 138:2

4. Your name, Ps. 138:2

5. Your lovingkindness, Ps. 138:2

6. Your truth/faithfulness, Ps. 138:2

7. Your name, Ps. 138:2

8. Your word, Ps. 138:2

 

138:1 "with all my heart" This is a Hebrew idiom of total dedication (cf. Ps. 86:12; 111:1). This was a way of showing the difference between the faith/faithfulness of

1. David - a whole heart (before Bathsheba and later after the terrible episode)

2. Solomon - a divided heart (when he was old)

Sin was not the issue, all sin (see note at Ps. 130:3-4), but continuing faith and repentance. Relationship with YHWH is the key, not performance based on human efforts.

▣ "before the gods" This could be viewed in two ways.

1. the throne room of heaven (i.e., temple worship) is where the psalmist makes his faith songs known (i.e., the heavenly council, Ps. 82:1; 89:7-8; 95:3; 96:4; 97:9)

2. that YHWH is the one true God (see Special Topic: Monotheism), which was Israel's uniqueness in the ANE

3. note SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY, C. "Elohim"

 

138:2 "toward Your holy temple" Jews and Muslims prayed toward Jerusalem (later Muslims changed to Mecca). This was the place where the one true God chose to dwell (cf. Deut. 12:11), between the wings of the cherubim on the ark of the covenant (cf. Exod. 25:22) in the Holy of Holies. It was the place where heaven and earth met.

If David's reign is the historical setting, then "temple" should be understood as "ark," housed in the "tabernacle." Israelites prayed

1. when away from Jerusalem facing Jerusalem (cf. Dan 6:10)

2. when in the temple facing the ark (cf. Ps. 28:2)

 

▣ "Your name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH (OT).

▣ "lovingkindness" See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed).

NASB, NKJV"truth"
NRSV, TEV,
JPSOA, REB"faithfulness"
NJB"constancy"

The term's (BDB 54) meaning can be seen in use of the verb (BDB 52). See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT.

▣ "Your word" See Special Topic: Terms for God's Revelation.

NASB"according to all"
NKJV"above all"

This phrase is unclear in Hebrew. It may relate to "before the gods" of Ps. 138:1b. It is also possible that it relates to "the kings of the earth" in Ps. 138:4. Whatever the specific referent, in the mind of the psalmist it magnified the person of Israel's Deity. His characteristics are supreme (NJB). See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD (OT) and Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God (NT).

138:3 YHWH's answer (imperative) to the psalmist's prayer was (two imperfect verbs)

1. make him bold (lit. "arrogant," BDB 923) but in this context the unique use of the Hiphil imperfect, "bold" is the intended meaning

The UBS Text Project (p. 421) gives the MT (BDB 923, רהב) a "B" rating (some doubt) and mentions the emendation of the RSV, NRSV, which suggests "multiply" or "increase" (BDB 915, רבה).

2. "with strength" - the noun, BDB 738, denotes strength or courage

What a difference repentant, faithful prayer makes. Prayer affects us and God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: INTERCESSORY PRAYER).

▣ "soul" See full note on nephesh (BDB 659) at Gen. 35:18 online at www.freebiblecommentary.org.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 138:4-6
 4All the kings of the earth will give thanks to You, O Lord,
 When they have heard the words of Your mouth.
 5And they will sing of the ways of the Lord,
 For great is the glory of the Lord.
 6For though the Lord is exalted,
 Yet He regards the lowly,
 But the haughty He knows from afar.

138:4-6 As Ps. 138:1-3 described the psalmist's prayers and YHWH's responses, now this strophe addresses the nations (i.e., "all the kings of the earth").

1. they will give thanks - BDB 392, KB 389, Hiphil imperfect used in a jussive sense

2. they will sing of YHWH's ways - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

The reason for the idiom is

1. YHWH's revelation (i.e., words)

2. YHWH's ways (i.e., exalts the lowly, judges the haughty), Ps. 138:6

3. YHWH's great glory (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA))

 

138:4 "All the kings of the earth" The OT discusses the nations under several categories.

1. YHWH and His Messiah's possession - Ps. 2:8; 82:8; Rev. 11:15

2. their fear/judgment - Ps. 72:11; 102:15; Isa. 49:23

3. their worship - Ps. 22:27; 66:4; 86:9; 138:4; Isa. 66:23; Rev. 15:4; see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan

 

138:6 "He knows" This verb is often used in the sense of intimate personal relationship. See Special Topic: Know.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 138:7-8
 7Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me;
 You will stretch forth Your hand against the wrath of my enemies,
 And Your right hand will save me.
 8The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
 Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
 Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

138:7-8 The psalmist alludes to his current situation.

1. I walk in the midst of trouble, Ps. 138:7 (this is hinted at in Ps. 138:3)

2. he has wrathful enemies, Ps. 138:7b; it is never certain who these enemies are

a. fellow Israelites

b. pagan neighbors

AB (pp. 275-276) asserts that this Psalm is best interpreted as a royal Psalm in David's reign because of the lexical and grammatical links to Ugaritic poetry.

3. "what concerns me," Ps. 138:8a. This, too, is unspecified but the context implies a spiritual or religious motive

4. the use of the word "revive" (lit. "keep me alive") implies the enemies

a. were attempting to kill him

b. he became ill

 

138:7 "Your right hand" See Special Topic: Hand.

▣ "save me" See Special Topic: Salvation (OT).

138:8a What a promise to all faithful followers.

1. we all have a divine purpose (cf. Ps. 57:2; Phil. 1:6)

2. the object of our faith will accomplish/fulfill His purpose in us

 

138:8b "Lovingkindness" See Special Topic: Lovingkindness (hesed).

▣ "everlasting" See Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

138:8c "Do not forsake the works of Your hands" The verb (BDB 951, KB 1276, Hiphil jussive) denotes YHWH's faithfulness to His purposes.

The phrase "work of Your hands" is a Hebrew idiom for YHWH's creation of mankind in His image/likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 2:1-7).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. To whom do "the gods" of Ps. 138:1b refer?

2. Define the Hebrew meaning of "lovingkindness" and "truth." Ps. 138:2

3. Why is the last line of Ps. 138:2 so difficult to translate?

4. Why is Ps. 138:3 so difficult to translate?

5. Does "all the kings of the earth" refer to a judgment scene or a worship scene?

6. Is it possible to define the "trouble" or "my enemies" of Ps. 138:7?

7. What great truth does Ps. 138:8 express?

Psalm 139

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
God's Omnipresence and Omniscience
MT Intro
For the choir director.
A Psalm of David.
God's Perfect Knowledge of Man Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
God's Complete Knowledge and Care In Praise of God's Omniscience
139:1-6 139:1-6 139:1-6 139:1-6 139:1-3
        139:4-6
139:7-12 139:7-12 139:7-12 139:7-12 139:7-8
        139:9-10
        139:11-12
139:13-16 139:13-16 139:13-18 139:13-18 139:13-14b
        139:14c-15
        139:16
139:17-18 139:17-18     139:17-18
139:19-22 139:19-22 139:19-24 139:19-22 139:19-20
        139:21-22
139:23-24 139:23-24   139:23-24 139:23-24

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm uses Hebrew poetry (see Special Topic: Hebrew Poetry) to describe the theological Greek terms: omnipresence, omniscience, and omnificence. YHWH is the perfect Judge.

B. This Psalm describes a faithful follower's personal knowledge of God. It is not linked to God's historical acts of the past but to current faith relationship.

C. John Calvin has said, "Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self." This seems to be applicable to this Psalm.

D. The Masoretic Hebrew (MT) text identifies the author of this Psalm as David. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 38b) attributes it to Adam, the first. However, the Septuagint (LXX) identifies authorship as Zechariah. The MT introductions are absent in the Dead Sea Scrolls. I do not consider them to be inspired.

E. Brief Outline

1. God's knowledge of me, Ps. 139:1-6

2. God's presence with me, Ps. 139:7-12

3. God's creative providence to me, Ps. 139:13-16

4. God's justice for me, Ps. 139:19-22

5. the faithful follower's appropriate response, Ps. 139:23-24

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 139:1-6
 1O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
 You understand my thought from afar.
 3You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
 And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
 4Even before there is a word on my tongue,
 Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
 5You have enclosed me behind and before,
 And laid Your hand upon me.
 6Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
 It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

139:1 "Lord" This is the covenant name for God, YHWH, from the Hebrew verb "to be," which implies the ever-living, only-living God (cf. Exod. 3:14). See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "You have searched me and known me" The first verb (BDB 350, KB 347, Qal perfect) begins and ends the Psalm. Psalm 139:21 is an imperative form, which implies Ps. 139:1 could also be understood in an imperatival sense. The basic etymology is "to dig into so as to find." YHWH examines the hearts of humans ( cf. Job 13:9; 1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Kgs. 8:39; 1 Chr. 28:9; 2 Chr. 6:30; Ps. 7:9; 44:21; Pro. 15:11; 20:27; 21:2; Jer. 11:20; 17:9-10; 20:12; Luke 16:15; Acts 1:24; 15:8; Rom. 8:27). See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD TESTS HIS PEOPLE.

▣ "known me" The OT word "to know" is used here in the sense of "intimate, personal knowledge" (cf. Gen. 4:1; Jer. 1:5; this imperfect is used in a jussive sense, see Special Topic: Know).

139:2 "when I sit down and when I rise up" God's complete knowledge of each individual life (i.e., Deut. 6:7) is described in Ps. 139:2-4.

1. sit down - rise up, Ps. 139:2

2. journeying - lying down, Ps. 139:3

3. before a word - You know it, Ps. 139:4

4. Ps. 139:2b,3b, and 4b serve as summary statements

 

The word translated "thought" (BDB 946 III) is found only here and in Ps. 139:17. BDB has its meaning as "purpose" or "aim." The LXX translates it as a similar root, "friends" (DB 946) in Ps. 139:17 but has "thoughts" in 139:2.

139:3 You scrutinize my path" The verb "scrutinize" (BDB 279, KB 280, Piel perfect) normally means

"to scatter" but here, and here alone, it seems to denote a winnowing or sifting. KB sees the root as also possibly meaning "to measure" (KB 280 II) in the sense of "know."

The term "path" (BDB 73) is a metaphor of one's life (cf. Job 14:16; 31:4). The concept is parallel to "the everlasting way" of Ps. 139:24.

▣ "my lying down" The Septuagint has the term "bed." This seems to refer either to nightly stopping places where one sleeps while traveling or to one's sexual activity (i.e., God knows all humans' activities).

NASB"intimately acquainted"
NKJV, NRSV"acquainted"
TEV"know"
NJB"every detail"
JPSOA, REB"familiar"

This Hebrew root (BDB 698) has several meanings.

1. 698 I - Qal, "be of service" or "benefit"

 - Hiphil used here and in Num. 22:30; Job 22:21, "know intimately"

2. 698 II - "incur danger," Eccl. 10:9 (Niphal)

3. 698 III - "be poor," Isa. 40:20 (Pual)

They all have the same root consonants and Masoretic vowel points. Only context can give a clue to its meaning.

139:4 "Even before there is a word on my tongue" The Peshitta has "deception," while the Septuagint has the phrase "unrighteous word." It is obvious that the ancient versions believed that Ps. 139:4 was related to mankind's evil side. Humans' spoken words reveal who we truly are (cf. Matt. 12:36,37; Mark 7:15).

139:5 "You have enclosed me" The Septuagint and the Peshitta have the verb "formed" instead of "enclosed" (BDB 848, KB 1015, Qal perfect). However, because of the following phrase, "enclosed" seems to be more appropriate. This Hebrew root (BDB 848 II) has a military connotation (cf. Isa. 29:3) or a sense of confinement (cf. Song of Songs 8:9). Here it denotes YHWH's sovereign control and guidance of a person's life.

The Hebrew words "behind" and "before" reflect the Hebrew words "east" and "west" (cf. Job 18:20).

▣ "laid Your hand upon me" This is anthropological language (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM)). The "hand" is a Hebrew idiom of power and control (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HAND).

Psalm 139:5b is a statement of YHWH's sovereignty and control of His human creature (cf. Ps. 139:10). This knowledge is comforting to faithful followers and terrifying to the disobedient.

139:6 "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me" The Septuagint puts Ps. 139:6 with the next paragraph. This phrase reflects a knowledge of God which is too much for mankind to comprehend (cf. Ps. 139:14, 17,18; Ps. 40:5; Isa. 55:8,9; Rom. 11:33). Ultimately we must trust God without fully understanding (i.e., Job 1-2,42).

The Hebrew term "wonderful" can mean "difficult" (cf. Deut. 30:11 and Pro. 30:18; see Special Topic: Wonderful Things).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 139:7-12
 7Where can I go from Your Spirit?
 Or where can I flee from Your presence?
 8If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
 If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
 9If I take the wings of the dawn,
 If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
 10Even there Your hand will lead me,
 And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
 11If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
 And the light around me will be night,"
 12Even the darkness is not dark to You,
 And the night is as bright as the day.
 Darkness and light are alike to You.

139:7 "Where can I go from Your Spirit" It is uncertain in exactly what sense this question is to be understood. Some see it as mankind's attempt to flee from God because he is evil. Others see it as a rhetorical device to show God's omnipresence. It is obvious that "Your Spirit" in this verse is parallel to "Your presence" in the next line. This is not the full NT Trinitarian (see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY) use of the term "Spirit," but it is a way of speaking of God's active presence (cf. Gen. 1:2). If I could paraphrase this concept it would be, "There is no hiding place from God" (cf. Je. 23:23,24). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE PERSONHOOD OF THE SPIRIT.

139:8 "If I ascend to heave, You are there" This is literally "scale" (BDB 701, KB 758, Qal imperfect). This is very similar to Ps. 103:11 in describing God's omnipresence, as far as heaven above and Sheol below.

Notice how in the next few verses "contrasts" are used to show the full extent of truths about God's omniscience and omnipresence.

1. ascend to heaven - make my bed in Sheol, Ps. 139:8

2. wings of the dawn (i.e., east) - remotest part of the sea (i.e., Mediterranean Sea to the west), Ps. 139:9

3. the darkness - the light, Ps. 139:12

God is present everywhere. No one can flee from Him!

▣ "I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there" There are many passages in the OT that speak of God being present in the realm of the dead (cf. Job 26:6; Ps. 15:11; Amos 9:2). The term "Sheol" is synonymous with the NT term "Hades" and should be translated "the realm of the dead" or "the nether world." See SPECIAL TOPIC: Where Are the Dead?

139:9 "If. . ." The hypothetical particle (BDB 49) appears only in Ps. 139:8a but is assumed in 8b,9a, 9b,11a.

The adverb "even" (BDB 168) is used in a similar way in Ps. 139:10a,12a.

Psalm 139:8-12 answers the two questions of 139:7. It is hypothetical language used to make a point.

▣ "in the remotest part of the sea" Literally this phrase is "from the sunrise to the sunset," which is similar to Ps. 130:12.

139:10 "Even there Your hand will lead me,
 And Your right hand will lay hold of me"
Traditional translation has assumed this verse to express God's personal guidance and protection. However, the Hebrew of Ps. 139:10 and 11 suggests the personification of darkness or a personal enemy pursuing the man of God.

139:11 "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me" The words "darkness," Ps. 139:11; "night," Ps. 139:11; "darkness, Ps. 139:12; "night," Ps. 139:12 seem to refer to Sheol (cf. Ps. 139:15). The ancient Jewish translations by Rashi and Eben Ezra, along with the NIV, suppose Ps. 139:11 to be an attempted escape by (1) sinful man in the darkness or (2) the faithful from sinful persecutors.

NASB"overwhelm"
NKJV"fall on"
NRSV, NJB,
Vulgate"cover"
TEV"hide"
JPSOA"conceal"
REB"steal over"

The MT has שׁוף (BDB 1003), which means "bruise" (cf. Gen. 3:15; Job 9:17) but this does not seem to fit the context. Therefore, some scholars suggest an emendation to שׁור (BDB 962 I) "hedge" or "fence about" (i.e., protect or cover).

Whatever is meant by "the darkness," God controls it, and His faithful followers need not fear it! It may even be an opportunity for revelation (cf. Gen. 15:12) or deliverance (plague of Egypt, cf. Exod. 10:21-19; Ps. 105:28).

139:12 "the darkness is not dark to You" Darkness can be (1) the opposite of light; (2) the enemy of light; (3) one's personal enemy; or (4) simply night time.

Nightfall was terrifying to the ancients. They often personified its sounds and lights in the sky as gods or omens. YHWH controls the night!

▣ "Darkness and light are alike to You" There is no where to run or hide from the Creator (cf. Ps. 139:7)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 139:13-16
 13For You formed my inward parts;
 You wove me in my mother's womb.
 14I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 Wonderful are Your works,
 And my soul knows it very well.
 15My frame was not hidden from You,
 When I was made in secret,
 And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
 16Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
 And in Your book were all written
 The days that were ordained for me,
 When as yet there was not one of them.

139:13

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"formed"
TEV, NJB,
JPSOA"created"
REB"fashioned"
LXX"possessed"

The verb (BDB 888, KB 1111, Qal perfect) normally means "to buy" but it is used of God's creative activities several times (cf. Gen. 14:19,22; Deut. 32:6; Pro. 8:22). Here it denotes God's special, personal care in the formation of the human person. As He created Adam (Gen. 2:8) and Eve (Gen. 2:18,21-22) with special care and purpose, so too, each human made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27). Humans are special!

▣ "inward parts" This Hebrew term (BDB 480) denotes the lower viscera of mankind (esp. "kidneys"), which is a Hebraic idiom for a person's emotions and will. This creation by God implies prenatal formation (cf. Jer. 1:5) of the person and his personality.

▣ "You did weave me in my mother's womb" The term "weave" (BDB 697 II, KB 754 II) is literally the rare Hebrew word "knit." It is found in only a few places.

1. Qal - Ps. 139:13

2. Niphal - Pro. 8:23 (possibly related term)

3. Poel - Job 10:11

The same root (KB 754 III) is translated "cover" (cf. Lam. 3:43,44). The word is rare and ambiguous but from the context the meaning is clear. Hebrew parallelism is very helpful in interpreting these rare terms.

139:14-16 The UBS Handbook (p. 1130) says "The translation of verses 14-16 is full of difficulties, and very few commentators or translators are dogmatic about the exact meaning of the Masoretic text." This being so, no doctrine that is not clearly taught in other Scriptures should be based on these verses. ANE poetry is slippery stuff. It is for emotional impact and does not lend itself to grammatical and lexical analysis. Remember, context, context, context is crucial. Hebrew parallelism is also a better guide than cognate Semitic roots! See Special Topic: Hebrew Poetry.

139:14 "I give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made" The Septuagint and the RSV make God, not man, the object of this statement. Today's English Version, following the Dead Sea Scrolls, seems to agree with this understanding. The MT has "I."

The two terms

1. fearfully - BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle

2. wonderfully - BDB 811, KB 930, Nipahl perfect

If these two terms refer to God, then they are parallel with the next line of poetry, "wonderful are Your works" (Ps. 139:14b).

The JPSOA translates this strophe (Ps. 139:13-16) as if it refers to God's creation of a human and not a description of God in Ps. 139:14.

139:15

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV, JPSOA"frame"
TEV"bones"
REB"body"

The Hebrew noun (BDB 787, KB 870) usually means "might" (cf. Deut. 8:17). Only here does BDB have "bones" (see NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 499-500), although the root is used of the bones of a sacrifice (cf. Num. 9:12) or human bones (cf. Num. 19:16,18). The sense here is human skeleton.

▣ "When I was made in secret" There are several understandings of this verse:

1. relates the term "secret" (BDB 712) and the parallel phrase, "in the depths of the earth," another name for Sheol (cf. Ps. 63:9; Job 14:13; 40:13; Isa. 45:19)

2. relates this to the creation of Adam from the dust (cf. Gen. 2:7) and our creation from the dust being personified as the depths of the earth (cf. Ecclesiasticus 40:1)

3. another possibility is to use the "hiddenness" of the womb and the "hiddenness" of the nether world as poetic imagery, not theological assertions

 

NASB, NKJV"skillfully wrought"
NRSV"intricately woven"
TEV"put together"
NJB"being formed"
JPSOA"shaped"
REB"formed"

The Hebrew root, רקם (BDB 955), means "variegated." The Pual is found only here. The NRSV is literal. But the root could refer to "kneading" clay or dough (AB, p. 294; TEV, NJB, JPSOA, REB).

139:16 "Your eyes" The OT often uses anthropomorphic language to describe God. Humans have no other language to use but it is always only analogous. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM).

▣ "unformed substance" This hapax legomenon has also been understood in two different ways:

1. of fetal development which is known by God (cf. Ps. 139:13-16a; AV, RV, NEV, JPSOA

2. of all of life being known by God, even before birth (cf. LXX, REV, JB, NASV, TEV), based on the contextual link with Ps. 139:16b

The "unformed" (BDB 166) is from the root "to roll up" (cf. 2 Kgs. 2:8) but here in the Aramaic sense of "unfinished vessel." AB (p. 295) translates it as "life stages," from Ugaritic root.

NASB"ordained"
NKJV, REB"fashioned"
NRSV, JPSOA"formed"
TEV"allotted"
NJB"inscribed"

The verb (BDB 427, KB 428; Owens, Analytical Key to the OT, calls it a Pual perfect, while OT Parsing Guide calls it a Qal passive) denotes the creations of a potter (cf. Jer. 1:5). This verb, like so many in this Psalm, denotes God's sovereign acts and will.

▣ "in Your book were all written" This refers to the two books mentioned in Dan. 7:10 and Rev. 20:12: (1) the Book of Life (cf. Exod. 32:32; Ps. 69:25; Luke 10:20) or (2) the Book of Remembrances (cf. Ps. 56:8; Mal. 3:16). See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TWO BOOKS OF GOD.

YHWH knows our lives, thoughts, and deeds before they are done in time (Rev. 13:8).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 139:17-18
 17How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! 
 How vast is the sum of them!
 18If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
 When I awake, I am still with You.

139:17 "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God" The translation "precious" is from the Hebrew root "heavy" or "weighty" (BDB 429, cf. Ps. 116:15). The Septuagint translates this phrase, "Thy friends, Oh God, have been greatly honored by me." For a parallel to Ps. 139:17 see Ps. 40:5.

▣ "How vast is the sum of them" There are several interpretive issues in this phrase.

1. The term "vast" (BDB 782 II) is translated "bones" in Ps. 139:16 but there seems to be no contextual link between them.

2. The term "sum" (BDB 910 I) is literally "head." It could be "sum of a column of numbers." The ancients added up, not down. This would make a good parallel to Ps. 139:18a.

However, AB (p. 296) asserts a better translation is "essence," following Ps. 119:160.

The LXX interpreted this word as "rulers" or "principalities." There is obviously ambiguity here. Remember this is Hebrew poetry, using many hapax legomena and rare words.

139:18 "If I count them, they would outnumber the sand" Psalm 139:17 and 18 are amazing in the sense that the all-knowing, all-powerful, always-present God cares about each of His human creatures!

▣ "When I awake, I am still with You" The phrase "awake" is perfect tense in Hebrew. There have been several theories about its meaning.

1. that it refers to the Hebrew concept of God's presence (cf. Ps. 73:23)

2. that some Hebrew manuscripts have the term "finished" to give the sense of "finished counting your blessings"

3. some take this as eternal life with God (cf. Ps. 17:15; 23:6)

4. the psalmist falling asleep while counting God's blessings and waking again to still find Him present (because he could not finish the counting, cf. Ps. 3:5; Pro. 3:24).

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 139:19-22
 19O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
 Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
 20For they speak against You wickedly,
 And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
 21Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
 And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
 22I hate them with the utmost hatred;

They have become my enemies.

139:19 "O that You would slay the wicked, O God" At first this last strophe seems to be a radical break in the context, but it is really continuing the thoughts of a righteous God and His Personal Presence in a sinful world. The wicked are characterized in five phrases.

1. they are murderers, Ps. 139:19b

2. they speak wickedly, Ps. 139:20a

3. they take God's name in vain, Ps. 139:20b

4. they hate God, Ps. 139:21a

5. they rise up against God, Ps. 139:21b

The psalmist wishes that they would experience the curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27-30. The "two ways" has clear consequences in time and eternity (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

▣ "Depart from me" Note Ps. 6:8; 119:115; Matt. 7:23. This is exactly opposite from Ps. 139:18b, which speaks of God's presence with His faithful followers.

This last strophe is characterized by imperatives (seven). There are no other imperatives in this Psalm.

1. depart from me, Ps. 139:19 - BDB 693, KB 747, Qal imperative addressed to "the wicked"

2. search me, Ps. 139:23 - BDB 350, KB 347, Qal imperative; the same root appears in Ps. 139:1, addressed to God, cf. Ps. 26:2; numbers 2-7 are addressed to God by the psalmist

3. know my heart, Ps. 139:23 (twice) - BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperative, see Ps. 139:1,2,14, addressed to God

4. try me, Ps. 139:23 - BDB 103, KB 119, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 7:9; 11:5

5. know, Ps. 139:23 - same as #3

6. see, Ps. 139:24 - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

7. lead me, Ps. 139:24 - BDB 634, KB 685, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 5:8; 31:3

 

139:20 "And Your enemies take Your name in vain" Notice "Your name" is in italics, which means that it is not in the Hebrew text. The literal Hebrew text, followed by the Septuagint, has "Thy cities in vain," but this seems to be a difficult translation to understand. The UBS Text Project gives this reading a "C" rating (i.e., considerable doubt). It is possible to revocalize "take in vain" in the sense of "to array against." It is uncertain if the men referred to are simply ignorant of God or if they are aggressive false teachers.

139:20-22 This is the psalmist's righteous indignation!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 139:23-24
 23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
 Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
 24And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
 And lead me in the everlasting way.

139:24 "hurtful way in me" Some translate this as "idolatrous way" (BDB 780 I). This may be possible because the term "way" can be revocalized "to hold sway." It is obvious that the author wants none of the attitudes or actions of the wicked, which are discussed in Ps. 139:19-22, in his life even if he does not immediately recognize them.

The other option (AB, p. 285) is to see this Psalm as being from a godly person accused of idolatry.

▣ "the everlasting way" This is contrasted to the way of the wicked (cf. Ps. 1:1,4-5). Their way will pass away but following God's will results in eternal life (cf. Ps. 16:11; Jer. 6:16; 18:15; Job 22:15). This ancient way developed into the OT concept of biblical faith as a lifestyle and became fully developed in the NT title for the early church called "The Way."

The noun "everlasting" (BDB 761) is the Hebrew 'olam, see Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Why has this Psalm so grabbed the heart and mind of modern man?

2. What is this Psalm saying about God in our daily lives?

3. How do the negative statements of Ps. 139:19-22 fit into the overall purpose of the biblical author?

Psalm 140

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Protection Against the Wicked
MT Intro
For the choir director.
A Psalm of David.
Prayer for Deliverance from Evil Men Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Protection Against the Wicked
140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3
140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5
140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8b
        140:8c-11
140:9-11 140:9-11 140:9-11 140:9-11  
140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Several names for God are used in this Psalm.

1. YHWH, Ps. 140:1,4,6 (twice),7,8,12

2. God (i.e., El), Ps. 140:6

3. Adon, Ps. 140:7

B. Notice how different persons are characterized.

1. the unfaithful

a. evil men, Ps. 140:1a

b. violent men, Ps. 140:1b,4b

c. devise evil things in their hearts, Ps. 140:2a

d. stir up wars, Ps. 140:2b

e. sharpen their tongues as a serpent, Ps. 140:3a

f. poison of a viper is under their lips, Ps. 140:3b

g. wicked men, Ps. 140:4a

h. purposed to trip, Ps. 140:4c

i. the proud have a hidden trap, Ps. 140:5a

j. spread a net, Ps. 140:5b

k. set snares, Ps. 140:5c

2. Israel's Deity

a. rescues, Ps. 140:1a

b. perseveres, Ps. 140:1b,4b

c. keep, Ps. 140:4a

d. He is El, Ps. 140:6a

e. gives ear, Ps. 140:6b

f. He is the strength of salvation, Ps. 140:7a (only here in the OT)

g. protector in battle, Ps. 140:7b

h. maintain the cause of the afflicted, Ps. 140:12a

i. justice for the poor, Ps. 140:12b

3. faithful followers

a. the afflicted, Ps. 140:12a

b. the poor, Ps. 140:12b

c. the righteous give thanks, Ps. 140:13a

d. the upright dwell with God, Ps. 140:13b

C. This Psalm clearly illustrates "the two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

D. This Psalm, like Psalm 139, has a large number of hapax legomena and rare words.

E. The Masoretic scholars suggested three changes (Qere) to the MT, one in Ps. 140:10,11,13, which show confusion in the text.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:1-3
 1Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men;
 Preserve me from violent men
 2Who devise evil things in their hearts;
 They continually stir up wars.
 3They sharpen their tongues as a serpent;
 Poison of a viper is under their lips.  Selah.

140:1-3,4-5 These two strophes are parallel in several ways, especially Ps.140:1 and 4 are prayers to God. The second line of both are imperfects used as jussives or even possibly an imperative of request. So the first verb of Ps. 140:1, "rescue" (BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperative), is parallel to "keep" (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperative) of Ps. 140:4.

The second lines of both Ps. 140:1 and 4 are the same.

The wicked are thus characterized in Ps. 140:2-3 and 4c-5.

140:2 "devise evil things" This is characteristic of those who do not follow God (cf. Ps. 7:14; 36:4; 52:2; Pro. 3:29; 6:14; Isa. 59:4; Hos. 7:15; Mic. 2:1; Nah. 1:9). By their actions you know who their father is (cf. John 8:39-44)! By their fruit you will know them (cf. Matt. 7:15-23)!

The same verb, "devise" (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal perfect) is repeated in Ps. 140:4c.

▣ "Hearts" This is a Hebrew idiom for the whole person. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

▣ "continually stir up wars" In context this would refer to interpersonal strife, not armed conflict between nations (see NET Bible, #21, p. 1005). It is possible that as Psalm 139 may have been written against the judicial backdrop of the charge of idolatry, so too, Psalm 140 (esp. Ps. 140:12).

140:3 Notice the number of words with שׁ in them (i.e., sound play).

1. verb, "make sharp" (BDB 1041)

2. noun, "tongues" (BDB 546)

3. noun, "serpent" (BDB 638)

4. noun, "vipers" (BDB 747)

5. their lips (BDB 973)

All are meant to play on the hissing sound of a snake. Paul quotes this verse in Rom. 3:13 as one of many examples from the OT of mankind's sin (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23). See note at Ps. 130:3-4.

▣ "viper" This noun (BDB 747, עכשׁוב) is found only here in the OT. Most translations have "asp" or "viper" or "cobra" but some (REB) have "spider" (BDB 747, עכבישׁ).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:4-5
 4Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
 Preserve me from violent men
 Who have purposed to trip up my feet.
 5The proud have hidden a trap for me, and cords;
 They have spread a net by the wayside;
 They have set snares for me.  Selah.

140:4-5 Notice the string of hunting metaphors (cf. Ps. 9:15; 31:4; 35:7; 64:5; 119:110; 141:9-10; 142:3).

1. trip up my feet, Ps. 140:4c

2. set a hidden trap, Ps. 140:5a

3. set hidden cords, Ps. 140:5a

4. spread a net by the road, Ps. 140:5b

5. set snares

 

140:5,8 "Selah" See full note at Ps. 3:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:6-8
 6I said to the Lord, "You are my God;
 Give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.
 7O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation,
 You have covered my head in the day of battle.
 8Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
 Do not promote his evil device, that they not be exalted."  Selah.

140:6-7 This is covenant language. The faithful follower calls on his faithful God for help and deliverance.

Notice the prayer requests.

1. rescue me, Ps. 140:1a

2. preserve me, Ps. 140:1b

3. keep me, Ps. 140:4a

4. preserve me, Ps. 140:4b

5. give ear, Ps. 140:6b

6. do not grant the desires of the wicked, Ps. 140:8a

7. do not promote their evil device, Ps. 140:8b

8. may the mischief of their lips cover them, Ps. 140:9b

9. may burning coals fall upon them, Ps. 140:10a

10. may they be cast into the fire, Ps. 140:10b

11. may they be cast into deep pits they cannot get out of, Ps. 140:10c

12. may the slander not be established, Ps. 140:11a

13. may evil hunt the violent man speedily, Ps. 140:11b

These are a combination of imperatives, imperfects used as imperatives, imperfects used as jussives, and jussives. This Psalm is a prayer for justice to be done to evil, violent, wicked, proud, lying people!

140:8 "desires" This term (BDB 16) is found only here in the OT. The psalmist prays that the "desires" of the wicked go unfulfilled. God gives the "desires" of the heart of faithful followers because He places them there. Our "desires" (and our words) clearly reveal our hearts!

▣ "device" This term (BDB 273) is found only here in the OT.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:9-11
 9"As for the head of those who surround me,
 May the mischief of their lips cover them.
 10May burning coals fall upon them;
 May they be cast into the fire,
 Into deep pits from which they cannot rise.
 11May a slanderer not be established in the earth;
 May evil hunt the violent man speedily."

140:9 "the head" This Hebrew word (BDB 910) refers to (1) the leader or organizer of the wicked, violent, lying, proud men who have plotted against the psalmist or (2) an idiom for being victorious. Number 2 fits the context best. There are several "collective singulars" in this Psalm.

140:10 "fire" This is a symbol of judgment. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

NASB, NKJV"deep pits"
NRSV, TEV,
JPSOA"pits"
NJB"mire"
REB"miry depths"

This term (BDB 243) occurs only here. BDB has the meaning of "watery pit" or "flood." For water as an ancient symbol of chaos, see Special Topic: Waters.

It is also possible that the imagery of this verse refers to a fiery Sheol (cf. Deut. 32:22). See Special Topic: Sheol.

140:11 "speedily" This term (BDB 191) occurs only here in the OT. It seems to mean "blow upon blow," therefore, it denotes violence. The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 934, suggests that "speedily" implies that "the slanderer is to be destroyed before he can become established in the country" (i.e., Promised Land).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:12-13
 12I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted
 And justice for the poor.
 13Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
 The upright will dwell in Your presence.

140:12 "the afflicted. . .the poor" These are often used in the Psalter for faithful followers (cf. Ps. 9:18; 34:6; 40:17; 70:5; 86:1; 109:22). This may be the origin of Jesus' imagery in Matt. 5:3-4.

140:13 "Your name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

▣ "will dwell in Your presence" This could refer to

1. worshiping in the temple

2. an afterlife with God

Only context can tell; see Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15; 23:6; 31:20.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this Psalm possibly related to Psalm 139?

2. List the ways the wicked are described.

3. Why are Psalm 140:6 and 7 considered the psalmist's confession of faith?

4. To what group does the term "afflicted" and "poor" refer?

5. Does Ps. 140:13b refer to temple worship or eternity with God?

Psalm 141

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Protection Against the Wicked
MT Intro
For the choir director.
A Psalm of David.
Prayer for Deliverance from Evil Men Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Protection Against the Wicked
140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3 140:1-3
140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5 140:4-5
140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8 140:6-8b
        140:8c-11
140:9-11 140:9-11 140:9-11 140:9-11  
140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13 140:12-13

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Several names for God are used in this Psalm.

1. YHWH, Ps. 140:1,4,6 (twice),7,8,12

2. God (i.e., El), Ps. 140:6

3. Adon, Ps. 140:7

B. Notice how different persons are characterized.

1. the unfaithful

a. evil men, Ps. 140:1a

b. violent men, Ps. 140:1b,4b

c. devise evil things in their hearts, Ps. 140:2a

d. stir up wars, Ps. 140:2b

e. sharpen their tongues as a serpent, Ps. 140:3a

f. poison of a viper is under their lips, Ps. 140:3b

g. wicked men, Ps. 140:4a

h. purposed to trip, Ps. 140:4c

i. the proud have a hidden trap, Ps. 140:5a

j. spread a net, Ps. 140:5b

k. set snares, Ps. 140:5c

2. Israel's Deity

a. rescues, Ps. 140:1a

b. perseveres, Ps. 140:1b,4b

c. keep, Ps. 140:4a

d. He is El, Ps. 140:6a

e. gives ear, Ps. 140:6b

f. He is the strength of salvation, Ps. 140:7a (only here in the OT)

g. protector in battle, Ps. 140:7b

h. maintain the cause of the afflicted, Ps. 140:12a

i. justice for the poor, Ps. 140:12b

3. faithful followers

a. the afflicted, Ps. 140:12a

b. the poor, Ps. 140:12b

c. the righteous give thanks, Ps. 140:13a

d. the upright dwell with God, Ps. 140:13b

C. This Psalm clearly illustrates "the two ways" (cf. Deut. 30:15,19; Psalm 1).

D. This Psalm, like Psalm 139, has a large number of hapax legomena and rare words.

E. The Masoretic scholars suggested three changes (Qere) to the MT, one in Ps. 140:10,11,13, which show confusion in the text.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:1-3
 1Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men;
 Preserve me from violent men
 2Who devise evil things in their hearts;
 They continually stir up wars.
 3They sharpen their tongues as a serpent;
 Poison of a viper is under their lips.  Selah.

140:1-3,4-5 These two strophes are parallel in several ways, especially Ps.140:1 and 4 are prayers to God. The second line of both are imperfects used as jussives or even possibly an imperative of request. So the first verb of Ps. 140:1, "rescue" (BDB 322, KB 321, Piel imperative), is parallel to "keep" (BDB 1036, KB 1581, Qal imperative) of Ps. 140:4.

The second lines of both Ps. 140:1 and 4 are the same.

The wicked are thus characterized in Ps. 140:2-3 and 4c-5.

140:2 "devise evil things" This is characteristic of those who do not follow God (cf. Ps. 7:14; 36:4; 52:2; Pro. 3:29; 6:14; Isa. 59:4; Hos. 7:15; Mic. 2:1; Nah. 1:9). By their actions you know who their father is (cf. John 8:39-44)! By their fruit you will know them (cf. Matt. 7:15-23)!

The same verb, "devise" (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal perfect) is repeated in Ps. 140:4c.

▣ "Hearts" This is a Hebrew idiom for the whole person. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

▣ "continually stir up wars" In context this would refer to interpersonal strife, not armed conflict between nations (see NET Bible, #21, p. 1005). It is possible that as Psalm 139 may have been written against the judicial backdrop of the charge of idolatry, so too, Psalm 140 (esp. Ps. 140:12).

140:3 Notice the number of words with שׁ in them (i.e., sound play).

1. verb, "make sharp" (BDB 1041)

2. noun, "tongues" (BDB 546)

3. noun, "serpent" (BDB 638)

4. noun, "vipers" (BDB 747)

5. their lips (BDB 973)

All are meant to play on the hissing sound of a snake. Paul quotes this verse in Rom. 3:13 as one of many examples from the OT of mankind's sin (cf. Rom. 3:9-18,23). See note at Ps. 130:3-4.

▣ "viper" This noun (BDB 747, עכשׁוב) is found only here in the OT. Most translations have "asp" or "viper" or "cobra" but some (REB) have "spider" (BDB 747, עכבישׁ).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:4-5
 4Keep me, O Lord, from the hands of the wicked;
 Preserve me from violent men
 Who have purposed to trip up my feet.
 5The proud have hidden a trap for me, and cords;
 They have spread a net by the wayside;
 They have set snares for me.  Selah.

140:4-5 Notice the string of hunting metaphors (cf. Ps. 9:15; 31:4; 35:7; 64:5; 119:110; 141:9-10; 142:3).

1. trip up my feet, Ps. 140:4c

2. set a hidden trap, Ps. 140:5a

3. set hidden cords, Ps. 140:5a

4. spread a net by the road, Ps. 140:5b

5. set snares

 

140:5,8 "Selah" See full note at Ps. 3:2.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:6-8
 6I said to the Lord, "You are my God;
 Give ear, O Lord, to the voice of my supplications.
 7O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation,
 You have covered my head in the day of battle.
 8Do not grant, O Lord, the desires of the wicked;
 Do not promote his evil device, that they not be exalted."  Selah.

140:6-7 This is covenant language. The faithful follower calls on his faithful God for help and deliverance.

Notice the prayer requests.

1. rescue me, Ps. 140:1a

2. preserve me, Ps. 140:1b

3. keep me, Ps. 140:4a

4. preserve me, Ps. 140:4b

5. give ear, Ps. 140:6b

6. do not grant the desires of the wicked, Ps. 140:8a

7. do not promote their evil device, Ps. 140:8b

8. may the mischief of their lips cover them, Ps. 140:9b

9. may burning coals fall upon them, Ps. 140:10a

10. may they be cast into the fire, Ps. 140:10b

11. may they be cast into deep pits they cannot get out of, Ps. 140:10c

12. may the slander not be established, Ps. 140:11a

13. may evil hunt the violent man speedily, Ps. 140:11b

These are a combination of imperatives, imperfects used as imperatives, imperfects used as jussives, and jussives. This Psalm is a prayer for justice to be done to evil, violent, wicked, proud, lying people!

140:8 "desires" This term (BDB 16) is found only here in the OT. The psalmist prays that the "desires" of the wicked go unfulfilled. God gives the "desires" of the heart of faithful followers because He places them there. Our "desires" (and our words) clearly reveal our hearts!

▣ "device" This term (BDB 273) is found only here in the OT.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:9-11
 9"As for the head of those who surround me,
 May the mischief of their lips cover them.
 10May burning coals fall upon them;
 May they be cast into the fire,
 Into deep pits from which they cannot rise.
 11May a slanderer not be established in the earth;
 May evil hunt the violent man speedily."

140:9 "the head" This Hebrew word (BDB 910) refers to (1) the leader or organizer of the wicked, violent, lying, proud men who have plotted against the psalmist or (2) an idiom for being victorious. Number 2 fits the context best. There are several "collective singulars" in this Psalm.

140:10 "fire" This is a symbol of judgment. See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE.

NASB, NKJV"deep pits"
NRSV, TEV,
JPSOA"pits"
NJB"mire"
REB"miry depths"

This term (BDB 243) occurs only here. BDB has the meaning of "watery pit" or "flood." For water as an ancient symbol of chaos, see Special Topic: Waters.

It is also possible that the imagery of this verse refers to a fiery Sheol (cf. Deut. 32:22). See Special Topic: Sheol.

140:11 "speedily" This term (BDB 191) occurs only here in the OT. It seems to mean "blow upon blow," therefore, it denotes violence. The NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 934, suggests that "speedily" implies that "the slanderer is to be destroyed before he can become established in the country" (i.e., Promised Land).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 140:12-13
 12I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted
 And justice for the poor.
 13Surely the righteous will give thanks to Your name;
 The upright will dwell in Your presence.

140:12 "the afflicted. . .the poor" These are often used in the Psalter for faithful followers (cf. Ps. 9:18; 34:6; 40:17; 70:5; 86:1; 109:22). This may be the origin of Jesus' imagery in Matt. 5:3-4.

140:13 "Your name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

▣ "will dwell in Your presence" This could refer to

1. worshiping in the temple

2. an afterlife with God

Only context can tell; see Ps. 11:7; 16:11; 17:15; 23:6; 31:20.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this Psalm possibly related to Psalm 139?

2. List the ways the wicked are described.

3. Why are Psalm 140:6 and 7 considered the psalmist's confession of faith?

4. To what group does the term "afflicted" and "poor" refer?

5. Does Ps. 140:13b refer to temple worship or eternity with God?

Psalm 142

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Help in Trouble
MT Intro
Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.
A Plea for Relief from Persecutors Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Help Prayer in Persecution
142:1-4 142:1-2 142:1-3b 142:1-4 142:1-3b
  142:3-4      
    142:3c-4   142:3c-4
142:5-7 142:5-7 142:5-6b 142:5-7 142:5-6b
    142:6c-7   142:6c-7

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 142:1-4
 1I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord;
 I make supplication with my voice to the Lord.
 2I pour out my complaint before Him;
 I declare my trouble before Him.
 3When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
 You knew my path.
 In the way where I walk
 They have hidden a trap for me.
 4Look to the right and see;
 For there is no one who regards me;
 There is no escape for me;
 No one cares for my soul.

142:1-2 This Psalm starts out with four imperfects which denote ongoing prayer.

1. I cry aloud - BDB 277, KB 277, Qal imperfect

2. I make supplication - BDB 335, KB 334, Hithpael imperfect

3. I pour out my complaint - BDB 1049, KB 1629, Qal imperfect, cf. 1 Sam. 1:15; Ps. 62:8; Lam. 2:19

4. I declare my trouble - BDB 616, KB 665, Hiphil imperfect

 

142:3 "my spirit" This is the Hebrew term ruah (BDB 924), which denotes "wind," "breath," or "spirit." It is used of the God-given life force in humanity. See Special Topic: Spirit in the Bible.

The psalmist is confused by the attacks of his accusers (i.e., those who hid a trap for him, Ps. 142:3d, cf. Ps. 140:4-5; 141:9-10; they are also called "persecutors" in Ps. 142:6c).

The psalmist asserts that YHWH knows him (i.e., his path, where he walks, Ps. 142:3b,c and Psalm 139) but it does not feel that way (i.e., Ps. 142:4).

NASB, NKJV"overwhelmed"
NRSV, NJB,
REB"faint"
LXX"failing me"
JPSOA"fails within me"

This Hithpael infinitive construct (BDB 742 III) basically means "to be feeble" or "to faint."

1. feeble - Hiphil, Gen. 30:42

2. faint - Qal, Ps. 61:3; Isa. 57:16

3. faint - Hithpael, Ps. 77:4; 107:5; 143:4; Lam. 2:12; Jonah 2:7

It is an idiom of discouragement and hopelessness.

Lines b and c express the truth that God is well acquainted with the lives of His faithful followers. Why problems, sickness, rejection, and attacks come is a mystery (i.e., Job), but the Bible teaches YHWH is for us, with us, and will never leave us. We can face circumstances with faith in Him!

142:4 The psalmist is surprised that no one comes to his aid (cf. Psalm 142:4), not even YHWH. Note the imperatives.

1. look - BDB 613, KB 661, Hiphil imperative

2. see - BDB 906, KB 1157, Qal imperative

Line d is so sad! He felt all alone, all alone! He felt his situation was hopeless (i.e., Job)!

The LXX, apparently following the DSS understanding, made the imperatives into simple statements, "I look. . .I see," referring not to YHWH, but to the psalmist. This is followed by the Aramaic Targums and the Vulgate. I think the imperatives fit the context best (i.e., the psalmist is addressing God, Ps. 142:1-3).

▣ "soul" This is the Hebrew term nephesh; see note at Gen. 35:18.

▣ "No one cares for my soul" The participle (BDB 205, KB 233, Qal participle) is literally "seek" and the phrase may be translated "no one seeks my life," but this is easily misunderstood in English. So the NASB caught the meaning well.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 142:5-7
 5I cried out to You, O Lord;
 I said, "You are my refuge,
 My portion in the land of the living.
 6Give heed to my cry,
 For I am brought very low;
 Deliver me from my persecutors,
 For they are too strong for me.
 7Bring my soul out of prison,
 So that I may give thanks to Your name;
 The righteous will surround me,
 For You will deal bountifully with me."

142:5 This is the psalmist's affirmation of faith.

1. You are my refuge

2. You are my portion in the land of the living (i.e., note, not the afterlife, cf. Job 28:13; Ps. 27:13; 52:5; 116:9; Isa. 38:11; Jer. 11:19)

 

▣ "refuge" See Special Topic: Refuge (OT).

▣ "my portion" See note at Ps. 16:5 online.

142:6-7 There is a series of prayer requests (Hiphil imperatives).

1. give heed - BDB 904, KB 1151, Hiphil imperative

2. deliver me - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

3. bring out - BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil imperative

 

142:7 "out of prison" This must be

1. metaphorical for his confusion and low state (cf. Ps. 142:3-4,6-7)

2. a reference to one taken forcibly into exile

3. an idiom for Sheol

The term "prison" (BDB 689) can mean

1. "locksmith" or "smith" - 2 Kgs. 24:14; Jer. 24:1; 29:2

2. dungeon (only three times in the OT)

a. literal of eschatological underground prison (cf. I Enoch 10.4,12)

b. figurative - Isa. 42:7

 

▣ "So that I may give thanks to Your name" This would be a request to visit the temple in Jerusalem. This is reinforced by the next line, "the righteous will surround me" (i.e., in corporate worship).

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. The psalmist asserts YHWH's knowledge of him (cf. Psalm 142:3b, c), but questions his circumstances! Sound familiar? Does knowledge of God's presence and care remove problems, sickness, and evil people from our lives? 

2. Is Ps. 142:4 about being abandoned by friends and family or by God?

3. To what does "prison" of Ps. 142:7 refer?

4. Is Ps. 142:7 referring to temple worship?

Psalm 143

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Deliverance and Guidance
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
An Earnest Appeal for Guidance and Deliverance Prayer for Deliverance from Personal Enemies
(A Lament)
A Prayer for Help A Humble Entreaty
143:1-4 143:1-2 143:1-2 143:1-2 143:1-2
  143:3-4 143:3-4 143:3-4 143:3-4
143:5-6 143:5-6 143:5-6 143:5-6 143:5-6
143:7-9 143:7-8 143:7-8 143:7-8 143:7
        143:8
  143:9-10 143:9-10 143:9-10 143:9-10
143:10-12        
  143:11-12 143:11-12 143:11-12 143:11-12

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. There are several imperatives and jussives of request.

1. hear, Ps. 143:1a

2. give ear, Ps. 143:1b

3. do not exile into judgment, Ps. 143:2a

4. answer me quickly, Ps. 143:7a

5. do not hide Your face, Ps. 143:7b

6. let me hear, Ps. 143:8a

7. teach me, Ps. 143:8c

8. deliver me, Ps. 143:9a

9. teach me, Ps. 143:10a

10. let Your good Spirit lead me, Ps. 143:10c

B. There are three people characterized in this Psalm.

1. YHWH

a. faithful, Ps. 143 1c

b. righteous, Ps. 143:1c,11b

c. lovingkindness, Ps. 143:8a,12a

d. in Ps. 143:10c and 11a the parallel phrases (i.e., "Your good Spirit" and "Your Name") also characterize YHWH

2. the psalmist

a. his spirit is overwhelmed, Ps. 143:4a

b. his spirit is appalled, Ps. 143:4b

c. he remembers God's past acts, Ps. 143:5

d. he longs for God, Ps. 143:6

e. his spirit fails, Ps. 143:7a

f. he trusts in God, Ps. 143:8b

g. he lifts his soul to God, Ps. 143:8d

h. he takes refuge in God, Ps. 143:9b

i. YHWH is his God, Ps. 143:10b

3. the enemy

a. persecutes the psalmist, Ps. 143:3a

b. crushed his life, Ps. 143:3b

c. made him dwell in dark places, Ps. 143:3c

d. afflicted the psalmist, Ps. 143:12b

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:1-4
 1Hear my prayer, O Lord,
 Give ear to my supplications!
 Answer me in Your faithfulness, in Your righteousness!
 2And do not enter into judgment with Your servant,
 For in Your sight no man living is righteous.
 3For the enemy has persecuted my soul;
 He has crushed my life to the ground;
 He has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead.
 4Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me;
 My heart is appalled within me.

143:1 "faithfulness" This noun (BDB 53) comes from the verb (BDB 52) which denotes "believe," "faith," "trust," and "faithfulness." See Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT.

A different word (BDB 105, KB 120) in Ps. 143:8b also means "trust."

▣ "righteousness" See Special Topic: Righteousness.

Notice how YHWH is characterized, see Contextual Insights, B. 1.

143:2 If YHWH counts sin(s), who can stand? All humans are affected by the Fall of Genesis 3 (see Special Topic: The Fall and the notes at Ps. 130:3-4).

Some rabbis assert that sin begins in Genesis 3 but most in Genesis 6. The rabbis assert the choices of humans as the source of evil (i.e., the two yetzers). Paul affirms Genesis 3 as the source (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:20; 3:23; 11:32; Gal. 3:22). The result is the same, as humans are rebels and need to be forgiven (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:46; Job 4:17; 9:2; 25:4; Ps. 130:3-4; Pro. 20:9; Eccl. 7:20; Isa. 53:6; Rom. 5:12-21)!

143:2b The UBS Handbook (p. 1151) mentions that this line of poetry, as translated by the LXX, may be alluded to by Paul in Rom. 3:20 and Gal. 2:16.

143:3-4 These verses describe in poetic language the feelings of the persecuted psalmist. The imagery is related to the Hebrew concept of Sheol (cf. Job 10:21; Ps. 88:5-6; Lam. 3:6).

But notice the drastic change that comes in Ps. 143:5, when the psalmist reflects on YHWH's wonderful, gracious acts in the past (i.e., creation, call of the Patriarchs, Israel becoming a nation and occupying the land of promise, etc.).

143:3 "the enemy" Note this (Qal participle) is linked to singular verbs. There are two good options.

1. a collective term (plural in Ps. 143:9,12)

2. one main enemy

3. a reference to "death," "the pit," "Sheol"

 

143:4 "spirit. . .heart" Both of these refer to the person. The first phrase is a repeat of Ps. 142:39, see note there.

The same thought is repeated in Ps. 143:7a.

For "spirit" see SPECIAL TOPIC: SPIRIT IN THE BIBLE.

For "heart" see SPECIAL TOPIC: THE HEART.

▣ "overwhelmed" This is literally "faint" (BDB 742, KB 814, Hithpael imperfect with waw, cf. Ps. 142:3a). This verb is used with

1. spirit (ruah) - Ps. 77:3; 142:3; 143:4

2. heart (leb) - Ps. 61:2; 143:4

3. soul (nephesh) - Ps. 107:5

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:5-6
 5I remember the days of old;
 I meditate on all Your doings;
 I muse on the work of Your hands.
 6I stretch out my hands to You;
 My soul longs for You, as a parched land.  Selah.

143:5-6 This describes the actions of the psalmist.

1. he remembers God's gracious acts of deliverance in the past, Ps. 143:5a

2. he continues to meditate on God's actions, Ps. 143:5b, cf. 105:2

3. he reflects/muses (cf. Ps. 77:12; 145:5) on God's creation, Ps. 143:5c, cf. Ps. 8:6; 102:25

4. he prays to God, Ps. 143:6a

5. his soul longs for God, Ps. 143:6b, cf. Ps. 42:2; 63:1

These are the focus of faithful followers' thoughts. We are what we think about. Our prayers and our acts reveal the true nature of each person.

143:5 "days of old" This noun (BDB 869) can mean "ancient" or "before time" (cf. Deut. 33:27; Pro. 8:22-23; Micah 5:2). Usually the root denotes "east" or "before" (NIDOTTE, vol. 3, pp. 869-871).

143:6 "I stretch out my hands to You" See note at Ps. 141:2b.

▣ "soul" This is the Hebrew term nephesh. See note at Gen. 35:18 online.

▣ "My soul longs for You, as a parched land" The psalmist longs/thirsts for personal fellowship with YHWH (i.e., Ps. 143:7b; Ps. 42:2; 63:1; 84:2). This is the goal of Gen. 1:26-27. It was "the" purpose of creation!

Notice that remembering YHWH's acts and worship gives hope in current circumstances!

▣ "Selah" See note at Ps. 3:2 online.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:7-9
 7Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails;
 Do not hide Your face from me,
 Or I will become like those who go down to the pit.
 8Let me hear Your lovingkindness in the morning;
 For I trust in You;
 Teach me the way in which I should walk;
 For to You I lift up my soul.
 9Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;
 I take refuge in You.

143:7 "my spirit fails" The verb (BDB 477, KB 476, Qal perfect) means "to be complete" or "to be finished." It is used of a person in

1. Job 33:21, flesh fails

2. Ps. 71:9, strength fails

3. Ps. 73:26, flesh and heart fail

4. Pro. 5:11, flesh and body fail

The psalmist feels he is about to die and go to Sheol (i.e., the pit, Ps. 143:7c).

▣ "hide Your face from me" This is idiomatic, anthropomorphic language of (1) God being silent and not responding to the psalmist's prayers or (2) God rejecting the psalmist; only context or parallelism can determine (cf. Ps. 10:11; 13:1; 27:9; 30:7; 51:9; 69:17; 88:14; 102:2). It expresses a sense of hopeless helplessness (cf. Ps. 142:4).

143:8c "Teach me the way in which I should walk" This verb (BDB 393, KB 390, Hiphil imperative) basically means "to know." The NASB translates it as

1. make known - 1 Chr. 17:19; Job 26:3; Ps. 89:1; 98:2; 106:8; 145:12; Isa. 64:1; Hab. 3:2

2. teach - Exod. 18:20; Jer. 31:19; and here

"Walk" is often used as a metaphor for daily living (i.e., Ps. 1:1; Pro. 1:15; 4:14; Isa. 48:17; Jer. 42:3; in the NT also, i.e., Rom. 14:15; Eph. 4:1,17; 5:2,15).

143:8d "to You I lift up my soul" This could be imagery, used only three times with YHWH as the object (cf. Ps. 25:1; 86:4) related to

1. praying (i.e., lift up my hands/palms)

2. sacrifice (i.e., wave offering or the imagery of the horns of the sacrificial altar)

 

143:9

NASB"I take refuge in You"
NKJV"In You I take shelter"
NJB"since in you I find protection"
JPSOA"to You I look for cover"
REB"with you I seek refuge"
LXX, Vulgate"to You I flee"

The participle (BDB 491, KB 487, Piel participle) basically means "to cover" or "to hide." It is a very common root in the OT.

The AB (p. 325) translates this line of poetry as "my God (El), truly am I being submerged." Dahood connects it to a reference to Sheol by using Job 22:11.

The UBS Handbook (p. 1153) mentions two Hebrew MSS which translate the MT differently.

1. "I seek refuge in You"

2. "to You I flee"

 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 143:10-12
 10Teach me to do Your will,
 For You are my God;
 Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
 11For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me.
 In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble.
 12And in Your lovingkindness, cut off my enemies
 And destroy all those who afflict my soul,
 For I am Your servant.

143:10 "Teach me to do Your will" This is a different word (BDB 540, KB 531, cf. Deut. 4:1; 6:1; 20:18; Jer. 12:16) from the "teach" of Ps. 143:8c. YHWH wants to teach us His will so that His faithful followers can model it for the lost world!

Also note the sovereign God must reveal His will but humans must choose to act (and continue to act) on this revelation. The covenant involves both God and humans!

NASB"Your good Spirit"
NKJV"Your Spirit is good"
NRSV, LXX"Your good spirit"
NJB"your generous spirit"
JPSOA, REB"Your gracious spirit"
Peshitta"Your gentle spirit"

As is obvious from the English translations there are two theological issues.

1. how to view "spirit"

a. imagery of God's agency (i.e., Gen. 1:2; Num. 11:17,25,29; Ps. 139:7; Hag. 2:5)

b. as a characterization of God Himself (cf. Ps. 51:11; Isa. 63:10-11)

2. the definition of "good" (BDB 373 III), which is a common verb with a wide semantic field; the general sense is

a. "pleasing," "good" (verb)

b. "pleasant," "agreeable," "good" (adjective)

c. "good thing," "goodness" (masculine noun)

d. "welfare," "benefit," "good thing" (feminine noun)

For #1 please look at Special Topic: The Personhood of the Spirit and SPECIAL TOPIC: THE TRINITY.

▣ "level ground" The OT uses the imagery of a path/road/way to describe one's life (cf. Ps. 5:8; 26:12; 27:11).

1. the good/godly life is

a. smooth

b. level

c. unobstructed

d. straight

2. the wicked life is

a. crooked

b. unlevel

c. obstructed

d. slippery

 

143:11-12 The psalmist bases his request, not on his own merit (cf. Ps. 143:2), but on

1. God's good name, Ps. 143:11a

2. God's righteousness, Ps. 143:11b

3. God's lovingkindness, Ps. 143:12a

 

143:11 "For the sake of Your Name" See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

NASB, NKJV,
TEV, REB"revive me"
NRSV, JPSOA"preserve my life"
NJB"give me life"
LXX"quicken me"

The verb (BDB 310, KB 309, Piel imperfect) is the common term "life" (noun), "live" (verb), "alive," or "living" (adjective). This Piel stem is used often in the Psalter (cf. Ps. 80:18; 85:6; 119:25,37, 40,50,88,93,107,149,154,156, 159). It is often parallel to BDB 996, KB 1427, cf. Ps. 80:3,17,19. It can refer to

1. physical life

2. spiritual life

 

143:12 "Your servant" This can mean

1. a faithful follower

2. an honorific title for leaders

a. Moses

b. Joshua

c. David (i.e., Kings of Judah)

d. Messiah/Israel (i.e., Servant Songs of Isaiah 41-53)

 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Since all humans are sinful, on what basis does the psalmist ask for God to hear and help him?

2. Who is "the enemy"?

3. Define "dark places" in Ps. 143:3.

4. What is the implication of YHWH "hiding His face"?

5. Does Ps. 143:10 refer to the Holy Spirit?

6. Define "servant."

Psalm 144

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Prayer for Rescue and Prosperity
MT Intro
A Psalm of David.
A Song To the Lord Who Preserves and Prospers His People A King Prays for Deliverance A King Thanks God for Victory Hymn for War and Victory
144:1-4 144:1-2 144:1-2 144:1-2 144:1-2
  144:3-4 144:3-4 144:3-4 144:3-4
144:5-8 144:5-8 144:5-8 144:5-8 144:5-6
        144:7-8
144:9-11 144:9-10 144:9-11 144:9-11 144:9-10b
        144:10c-11
  144:11-15      
144:12-15   144:12-14 144:12-14 144:12
        144:13
        144:14
    144:15 144:15 144:15

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:1-4
 1Blessed be the Lord, my rock,
 Who trains my hands for war,
 And my fingers for battle;
 2My lovingkindness and my fortress,
 My stronghold and my deliverer,
 My shield and He in whom I take refuge,
 Who subdues my people under me.
 3O Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
 Or the son of man, that You think of him?
 4Man is like a mere breath;
 His days are like a passing shadow.

144:1-4 This strophe uses numerous military allusions. This is obviously a royal Psalm. YHWH acts on behalf of His people to assure their survival because He has a universal redemptive plan involving national Israel (the descendants of Abraham). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Psalm 144:3-4 is surprising in that the focus moves from Israel to all humans.

1. they are the object of YHWH's special care (cf. Ps. 8:4) because they are made in His image and likeness (cf. Gen. 1:26-27)

2. however, because of Genesis 3 they are frail and finite (cf. Ps. 90:5; 103:15; 104:14; Isa. 40:6-8; 1 Pet. 1:24)

 

144:1 "Blessed" See Special Topic: Blessing (OT).

▣ "my rock" This (BDB 849) is a recurrent title for Israel's God. See notes online at Deut. 32:4 and Ps. 18:1-3. Everything changes but God does not. He is the anchor that does not fail, the fortress that cannot fall. Note the powerful, emotional string of descriptive nouns in Ps. 18:2!

▣ "trains my hands for war" There is obviously a literary relationship between Psalm 18 and Psalm 144. Note the parallels.

1. Ps. 144:1 - Ps. 18:2,34,46

2. Ps. 144:2 - Ps. 18:2,47

3. Ps. 144:3 - Ps. 18:4

4. Ps. 144:5 - Ps. 18:9

5. Ps. 144:6 - Ps. 18:14

6. Ps. 144:7 - Ps. 18:16-17,44

7. Ps. 144:10 - Ps. 18:50

8. Ps. 144:11 - Ps. 18:44

 

144:2 My lovingkindness" YHWH is faithful in His covenant commitments. See SPECIAL TOPIC: LOVINGKINDNESS (HESED).

Notice the number of personal pronouns in the NASB of Ps. 144:1-2 (six). The psalmist knows and trusts YHWH.

NASB, NKJV,
LXX"Who subdues my people under me"
NRSV, TEV,
Targums,
Peshitta,
Vulgate"who subdues the peoples under me"
NJB"He makes the peoples submit to me"

The difference is only a final mem. The UBS Text Project (p. 436) gives "my people" a "B" rating (some doubt). This line of poetry either

1. asserts the king's authority over the covenant people (i.e., he is YHWH's under shepherd)

2. asserts Israel's victory by YHWH's power over the pagan nations

The UBS Text Project (p. 437) gives "under me" an "A" rating (very high probability). If this is the correct text, then option #1 above is the correct phrase.

144:3 Notice the synonymous parallelism.

1. "man" - Adam (BDB 9)

2. "son of man" - "ben enosh" (BDB 60)

In the parallel in Psalm 8 the Hebrew words for "man" are reversed, but the intent is the same. These terms are speaking of a human person. See SPECIAL TOPIC: THE SON OF MAN (from Dan. 7:13).

▣ "take knowledge" This is the Hebrew verb "know" (BDB 393, KB 390, Qal imperfect with waw). See Special Topic: Know.

144:4 This verse highlights the finitude of mankind (cf. Job 8:9; 14:2; Ps. 39:5-6; 102:11; 109:23; Eccl. 6:12; 8:12) and although not specifically stated, the eternality of YHWH is highlighted.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:5-8
 5Bow Your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
 Touch the mountains, that they may smoke.
 6Flash forth lightning and scatter them;
 Send out Your arrows and confuse them.
 7Stretch forth Your hand from on high;
 Rescue me and deliver me out of great waters,
 Out of the hand of aliens
 8Whose mouths speak deceit,
 And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

144:5-8 This strophe is a series of prayer requests. It is surprising in light of Ps. 144:1-4. The psalmist asserts YHWH's power and presence in the first strophe but pleads for His deliverance in this one.

Note the imperatives and imperfects used in an imperatival sense.

1. bow, Ps. 144:5 (lit. "bend") - BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative

2. come down, Ps. 144:5 - BDB 432, KB 434, Qal imperfect but used as imperatival prayer request

3. touch, Ps. 144:5 - BDB 619, KB 668, Qal imperative, cf. Ps. 104:32

4. flash forth, Ps. 144:6 - BDB 140, KB 162, Qal imperative

5. scatter (i.e., arrows on alien invaders), Ps. 144:6 - BDB 806, KB 918, Hiphil imperfect used as imperatival prayer request

6. send out, Ps. 144:6 - BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal imperative

7. confuse, Ps. 144:6 - BDB 243, KB 251, Qal imperfect used as imperatival prayer request

8. stretch forth, Ps. 144:7 - same as #6

9. rescue (lit. "open," cf. Ps. 144:11), Ps. 144:7 - BDB 822, KB 953, Qal imperative

10. deliver me, Ps. 144:7 - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

 

144:5-7 These verses use "Holy War" imagery to request YHWH' presence and power in battle. He will either

1. train and empower the Israeli soldiers (Ps. 144:1)

2. fight on Israel's behalf as in the conquest of Canaan under Joshua (Ps. 144:6)

 

144:6

NASB"confuse them"
NKJV"destroy them"
NRSV, NJB"rout them"
TEV"send them running"
LXX"throw them into disarray"

There are two possible Hebrew roots.

1. המם, BDB 243, KB 251, "rout," cf. 2 Sam. 22:15; Ps. 18:14

2. הום, KB 242, confuse," this one has "Holy War" connotation, cf. Jos. 10:10; Jdgs. 4:15; 1 Sam. 7:10; 2 Chr. 15:6

 

144:7 Notice "great waters" is parallel to "the hand of aliens." The imagery is from

1. chaos of creation, cf. Job 41:1-11; Ps. 74:12-17; Isa. 51:9-10; see Special Topic: Waters

2. invasion, cf. Ps. 18:16-17; Isa. 17:12-14; 28:2; Jer. 51:34

3. death, cf. Ps. 18:4-6

 

144:8 The aliens (BDB 648) are characterized as those who lie. One's words reveal one's heart. This seems to refer to international treaties or possibly court testimony under oath (cf. Gen. 14:22; Deut. 32:40; Ps. 106:26; Isa. 44:20). YHWH is true to His word (cf. Ps. 144:2a), but pagans and some Israelites are not! See Special Topic: Human Speech.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:9-11
 9I will sing a new song to You, O God;
 Upon a harp of ten strings I will sing praises to You,
 10Who gives salvation to kings,
 Who rescues David His servant from the evil sword.
 11Rescue me and deliver me out of the hand of aliens,
 Whose mouth speaks deceit
 And whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

144:9-11 This strophe has three emphases.

1. what the psalmist promises to do

a. I will sing a new song to God, Ps. 144:9a - BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal cohortative

b. I will sing praises to God, Ps. 144:9b - BDB 274, KB 273, Piel cohortative

2. YHWH ‘s past acts of deliverance

a. He delivered Israel's Kings, Ps. 144:10a

b. He delivered David, Ps. 144:10b (probably kings of David's line)

3. the psalmist's prayer is based on YHWH's previous acts

a. rescue me, Ps. 144:11a - BDB 822, KB 963, Qal imperative

b. deliver me, Ps. 144:11a - BDB 664, KB 717, Hiphil imperative

Notice the parallel between Ps. 144:7-8 and 144:11.

144:10 "from the evil sword" This is an unusual characterization. Several translations put the phrase in the next line of poetry (i.e., NRSV, TEV, NJB). Other translations have

1. REB - "the cruel sword"

2. JPSOA - "the deadly sword"

3. KJV, Peshitta - "the hurtful sword"

4. AB - "the sword of the Evil One"

5. NAB - "the menacing sword"

In context it seems to relate to the "aliens" (Ps. 144:7c, 11a). The Aramaic Targums (translation with comments) interpreted it as "from the evil sword of Goliath" (UBS Handbook, p. 1159).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 144:12-15
 12Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants,
 And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace;
 13Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce,
 And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields;
 14Let our cattle bear
 Without mishap and without loss,
 Let there be no outcry in our streets!
 15How blessed are the people who are so situated;
 How blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!

144:12-14 This strophe is characterized by seven participles (1) used as jussives (2) statements of fact.

1. young sons as grown up plants, Ps. 144:12a - BDB 152, KB 178, Pual

2. young daughters as fashioned (lit. "hewn") pillars, Ps. 144:12b - BDB 310, KB 306, Pual

3. garners producing, Ps. 144:13a - BDB 807, KB 920, Hiphil

4. flocks bringing forth thousands, Ps. 144:13b - BDB 48 II, KB 59, Hiphil (found only here)

5. flocks bringing forth ten thousands, Ps. 144:13b - BDB 912, KB 1174, Pual

6. cattle bear (lit. be heavy with young), Ps. 144:14a - BDB 687, KB 741, Pual

7. going out (i.e., "bearing" ) with no problems, Ps. 144:14b - BDB 422, KB 425, Qal

8. there is an implied participle in Ps. 144:14c - NASB has "let," which matches Ps. 144:12-14b, "let there be no outcry in our streets"

These are all blessings of covenant obedience (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 27-30). Notice the covenant blessing of Ps. 144:15. NASB translates both Ps. 144:1 and 15 as "blessed," but they are different Hebrew words.

1. Ps. 144:1 - BDB 138

2. Ps. 144:15 - BDB 80

The term "happy" or "blessed" (BDB 80, cf. Ps. 1:1) is recurrent and describes why they are blessed (cf. Ps. 32:1-2; 34:8; 40:4; 84:5,12; 94:12; 127:5; Pro. 3:13; 8:34; 28:14). It is also used of corporate blessings (cf. Ps. 33:12; 89:15; 144:15).

144:12 The term "plants" (BDB 642) occurs only here but it is very close to the normal root for "plant."

1. plant (here) - נטיע

2. plant - נטע, used often

 

▣ "corner pillars" This is also a rare term, found only here and in Zech. 9:15.

144:13 "garner" This term (BDB 265, KB 565) is also found only here in the OT (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 909). Most translations have "barns."

144:14 There are two ways to view this verse.

1. It goes with Ps. 144:13b and relates to healthy, fruitful livestock (NIDOTTE, vol. 2, p. 498).

2. It goes with Ps. 144:14b,c and relates to a prayer for no breach in the city wall, which would allow an invader entrance.

The UBS Handbook (p. 1161) asserts there is no way from the text or context to know which option is best.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this Psalm related to Psalm 18?

2. How do Ps. 144:3 and 4 relate to Ps. 144:1 and 2?

3. How does Ps. 144:5-7 relate to "Holy War"?

4. To what or whom does "great waters" in Ps. 144:7 refer?

5. Why does the MT introduction not fit Ps. 144:10?

6. Are Ps. 144:12-14 prayers or statements?

Unstringing The Violinist

Article contributed by Stand To Reason
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I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous “Violinist” argument. I was driving south on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles listening to a radio talk-show. It shook me up so much I almost had to pull over.

Not only was the argument compelling, but Thompson made a stunning concession when she acknowledged the full personhood of the unborn. Having freely handed to pro-lifers what they were trying to prove, she short-circuited their argument from the outset.

My first emotion was despair. The argument couldn’t be answered, I thought. This is often the case with carefully worded philosophical treatments. At first glance they appear compelling. On closer inspection, though, the flaws begin to show. In this instance, the problems with Thompson’s argument are fatal.

The Violinist Argument

The details of Judith Jarvis Thompson’s argument are important, so I will quote her illustration in full. Titled “A Defense of Abortion,” Thompson’s trenchant challenge to the pro-life view first appeared in 1971 in the Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs.1

I propose, then, that we grant that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. How does the argument go from here? Something like this, I take it. Every person has a right to life. So the fetus has a right to life. No doubt the mother has a right to decide what shall happen in and to her body; everyone would grant that. But surely a person’s right to life is stronger and more stringent than the mother’s right to decide what happens in and to her body, and so outweighs it. So the fetus may not be killed; an abortion may not be performed.

It sounds plausible. But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.

Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says, “Tough luck, I agree, but you’ve now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.” I imagine you would regard this as outrageous,2 which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago.

Let’s unpack the argument. Thompson correctly shows that an additional step is needed to bridge the gap between the premise that the unborn is a person and the conclusion that killing the unborn child is always wrong. What’s needed is the additional premise that taking the life of a person is always wrong. Killing, however, is sometimes permissible, most notably in self-defense.

The reasoning in the violinist illustration is very tight. Thompson accurately represents the pro-life position, then offers a scenario for us to consider. The analysis employs two powerful techniques of argumentation: an example that appeals to moral intuition followed by a logical slippery slope.

The logical slippery slope works like this. When one thing is immoral, and a second is logically similar in a morally relevant way, the moral quality of the one “slips over” into the other. For example, murder is immoral, and some think capital punishment is similar enough to murder to make capital punishment immoral, too.3

Thompson is counting on a certain moral intuition—our sense of justice—rising to the surface when we consider the plight of the kidnapped woman in her illustration who is used as a host against her will to support the life of a stranger.

She then asks us to consider if having an abortion is a meaningful parallel to unplugging the violinist. Both circumstances catch the woman by surprise. Both the violinist and the unborn child are attached to her body, which both need in order to survive. Both will release her in nine months.

Thompson’s view is that disconnecting the violinist is morally justified even though he’ll die, and there seems to be merit to this appeal. To stay connected would be heroic—”a great kindness,” in her words—but, like all acts of heroism, it is voluntary and not morally required.4 If that’s the case, then it’s moral to abort a child, even if he or she is a fully human person, just like the violinist. If the first is morally acceptable (unplugging the violinist), and if the second (having an abortion) is similar to the first in a relevant way, then the second should be acceptable also. That’s the logical slippery slope.

An argument found in the book, Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent,5 uses the same approach. Author Eileen McDonagh points out that if a woman’s liberty is being threatened in some fashion—if she is being attacked, raped, or kidnapped—then the law gives her the latitude to use lethal force to repel her attacker.

Pregnancy, McDonagh argues, is this kind of situation. “If a woman has the right to defend herself against a rapist, she also should be able to use deadly force to expel a fetus,” she writes.6 In pregnancy, a woman is being attacked by another human being—from the inside, not from the outside. Therefore, she has the moral liberty to repel her attacker by killing the intruder.

It does seem obvious that a woman ought to be allowed to protect herself from an attacker and use lethal force to do so, if necessary. If this is true, then we must concede the legitimacy of abortion, which, McDonagh claims, is parallel in a relevant way. Again, note the logical slippery slope attempt.

Parallels That Aren’t Parallel

The key question in any slippery slope appeal is whether the two situations are truly similar in a morally relevant way. If not, then the illustration is guilty of a logical slippery slope fallacy, the analogy fails, and the argument falls apart.

Are there important differences between pregnancy and kidnapping? Yes, many.

First, the violinist is artificially attached to the woman. A mother’s unborn baby, however, is not surgically connected, nor was it ever “attached” to her. Instead, the baby is being produced by the mother’s own body by the natural process of reproduction.

Second, both Thompson and McDonagh treat the child—the woman’s own daughter or son—like an invading stranger. They make the mother/child union into a host/predator relationship.

A child is not an invader, though, a parasite living off his mother. A mother’s womb is the baby’s natural environment. Eileen McDonagh wants us to believe that the child growing inside of a woman is trespassing. One trespasses when he’s not in his rightful place, but a baby developing in the womb belongs there.

Thompson ignores a third important distinction. In the violinist illustration, the woman might be justified withholding life-giving treatment from the musician under these circumstances. Abortion, though, is not merely withholding treatment. It is actively taking another human being’s life through poisoning or dismemberment. A more accurate parallel with abortion would be to crush the violinist or cut him into pieces before unplugging him.

The violinist illustration is not parallel to pregnancy because it equates the mother/child relationship with a stranger/stranger relationship. This is a key point and brings into focus the most dangerous presumption of the violinist argument, also echoed in McDonagh’s appeal. Both presume it is unreasonable to expect a mother to have any unique obligations towards her own child.

The violinist analogy suggests that a mother has no more responsibility for the welfare of her child than she has to a total stranger. McDonagh’s view is even worse. She argues the child is not merely a stranger, but a violent assailant the mother needs to ward off in self-defense. An unborn child is no more assaulting his mother than her eight year old is stealing when he grabs cookies and milk from the ‘fridge.

This error becomes immediately evident if we amend Thompson’s illustration. What if the mother woke up from an accident to find herself connected to her own child? What kind of mother would willingly cut the life-support system to her two-year-old in a situation like that? And what would we think of her if she did?

Blood relationships are never based on choice, yet they entail moral obligations, nonetheless. This is why the courts prosecute negligent parents. They have consistently ruled, for example, that fathers have an obligation to support their children even if they are unplanned and unwanted.

If it is moral for a mother to deny her child the necessities of life (through abortion) before the child is born, how can she be obligated to provide the same necessities after he’s born? Remember, Thompson concedes that the fetus is a person from the moment of conception. If her argument works to justify abortion, it works just as well to justify killing any dependent child. After all, a two-year-old makes a much greater demand on a woman than a developing unborn (ask any parent).

Thompson is mistaken in presuming that pregnancy is the thing that expropriates a woman’s liberty. Instead, motherhood does that, and motherhood doesn’t begin with the birth of the child. It starts nine months earlier (ask any mother) and, unlike the woman connected to the violinist, she is not released in nine months. Her burden has just begun. If Thompson’s argument works, then no child is safe from a mother who wants her liberty, regardless of their age.

In the end, both Thompson’s and McDonagh’s arguments prove too much. They allow us to kill any human being who is dependent upon us, young or old, if that person restrains our personal liberty.

The simple fact is, in a civilized society no one has the freedom to do whatever she wants with her own body. Liberty unfettered by morality is the operative rule of anarchy, not civilization. At any given moment, each of us is constrained by hundreds of laws reflecting our moral responsibilities to each other and to our communities. The most primal of those rules is the obligation of a mother to her helpless child. This is one of the reasons the public outcry against Susan Smith was so intense.

Susan Smith Morality

On October 25, 1994, Susan Smith shocked the nation by murdering her children. She believed her two young boys were an obstacle to remarriage, so she placed them in her car, fastened their seat belts, and drove them into a lake.

Smith’s crime was especially obscene because she violated the most fundamental moral obligation of all: the responsibility a mother has for the safety and well-being of her own children. Yet wouldn’t Susan Smith be exonerated by applying Thompson’s and McDonagh’s logic? These children were kidnappers and interlopers, trespassing on Smith’s life, depriving her of liberty. Why not kill them? Those boys were attacking her. It was self-defense.

A while back, a couple in New York was arrested when authorities learned they took a ten-day vacation to Florida and left their young children behind, locked in their apartment to fend for themselves. If McDonagh’s and Thompson’s arguments work, these parents should be released from jail because they bear no more obligation towards their own children than they do to strangers across town or burglars who break into their home. Those children were invading their privacy, trespassing in their home, stealing their food.

This argument is frightening for two reasons. First, it must reject the notion of parental responsibility in order to succeed. Second, in spite of that weakness, people in high places think it’s compelling. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing in the North Carolina Law Review, has admitted that Roe v. Wade was deeply flawed, and instead quoted the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in support of abortion. Women get pregnant, she argued, men don’t. Abortion gives women a shot at equality. She then cited Thompson for support.

The responsibility a mother has toward her child supersedes any claim she has to personal liberty. If it doesn’t, if Thompson’s and McDonagh’s arguments succeed, then release Susan Smith. Release the deadbeat Florida tourists.

If parenthood is an act of heroism, if mothers have no moral obligation to the children they bear, if child-rearing is a burden “above and beyond the call of duty,” then no child is safe, in the womb or out.

--------------------

Addressing Abortion Columbo Style

“The government shouldn’t tell me what I can do with my own body.”

“Should the government be allowed to control your body concerning your two year old?”

“That’s different. That’s outside my body. Right now we’re talking about my uterus. The government shouldn’t tell me what I should do with my uterus any more than it should tell me I have to donate my liver or kidney.”

“On that I agree with you, but that has nothing to do with the pro-life view. Pro-lifers are not asking you to give up your uterus. Pro-lifers are saying that the government should be able to protect a human being inside your body just like it does an infant child on the outside of your body.”

“But we’re talking about my uterus, not a human being like an infant.”

“I thought we were talking about what was in your uterus.”

“Okay, but that’s not a human being.”

“It isn’t? Then what is it?”

“Nobody knows. It’s just tissue.”

“Well then, let me ask you a few questions about this mysterious thing in your uterus. You agree, then that there is something inside the uterus of a pregnant woman, right?”

“Of course.”

“Is it alive?”

“Like I said, no one knows when life begins.”

“You didn’t answer my question. I asked if it was alive, not when does life begin. So let me ask another way. Is the thing inside of a pregnant woman’s uterus growing?”

“Yes, it’s growing.”

“Well, this is progress. How can it be growing if it’s not alive?”

“Hmm… Okay, you’ve made your point. It’s alive. It’s living tissue, part of my own body, and the government has no say over my tissue growing in my body.”

“In principle, I would largely agree with your point about the government, but I don’t think this tissue is part of your body.”

“Of course it is.”

“Did you ever watch CSI?”

“Sure.”

“When the forensic pathologist finds remains of a human body, how do they determine which person the remains belong to?”

“They try to do a matching DNA test.”

“Right. If the DNA from the tissue matches the DNA of a hair sample from a known individual, then, they know where the tissue came from.”

“Right.”

“So if someone took a DNA test of that piece of flesh growing inside of your body if you were pregnant, would its DNA match your DNA?”

“Well…no.”

“Then whatever is growing inside of your body is not part of your body, is it? It’s tissue from a different body. That’s why it has a different DNA.”

“I guess so.”

“What kind of foreign creature do you think would be growing inside of your uterus when you’re pregnant.”

“I don’t know.”

“Well then, let’s go back to the CSI illustration. If forensic pathologists found a piece of tissue at a crime scene, how would they know if that tissue came from a human being or from some other animal?”

“I guess they’d do a DNA test.”

“Yes, but it would be a different kind of DNA test than the first one. This one isn’t looking for a match with a certain individual, but with a kind of individual. What kind of creature did this sample come from? What kind of DNA “signature” does the sample have? It might be dog DNA, cat DNA, possum road-kill DNA, or possibly human DNA. So if we took a piece of tissue from that living thing growing in your uterus, what kind of DNA do you think it would have?”

“I don’t know. I’m not a scientist.”

You don’t really have to be a scientist to know the answer to that question. Let me ask my question another way. What kinds of things naturally grow in a woman’s uterus?”

“You know, offspring.”

“So, if there is an offspring growing in a woman’s uterus, what kind of offspring is it? Could it be a dog, or a cat, or a possum offspring? What kind do you think?”

“I guess it would be a human offspring.”

“So we do know what’s growing inside your uterus when you’re pregnant, don’t we. It’s not a mystery. It’s not your tissue, but your human offspring. Someone else is in there—your unborn child. So now that we’ve solved that mystery, you think the government should be allowed to force you to protect your offspring when the child is outside of your body, but not when he’s inside your body. Right?”

“I guess that’s right.”

“Why should the government be allowed to protect your offspring on the outside of your body?”

“Because children are valuable.”

“Right, I agree. But that creates a problem for you now, doesn’t it?”

“How so?”

“Well if children are valuable outside of your body—say, right after they’re born—how are those same children not valuable when they are just a couple of inches away hidden inside your uterus? Why does the location of your child make any difference to the value of your child?”

 


1Judith Jarvis Thompson, “A Defense of Abortion,” Journal of Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1 (1971), 47.

2Note the appeal to moral intuition here.

3I don’t think this reasoning goes through in this case, but it’s a good example of a logical slippery slope approach.

4Philosophers call heroic efforts “supererogatory acts,” behavior that is not obligatory, but is praiseworthy if done, like a soldier throwing himself on a grenade, sacrificing his life to protect his comrades.

5Eileen McDonagh, Breaking the Abortion Deadlock:  From Choice to Consent (New York, Oxford University Press, 1996).

6Quoted in Nat Hentoff, “The Tiny, Voiceless Enemy Within,” Los Angeles Times, 2/3/97, B-5.

Related Topics: Apologetics, Cultural Issues, Philosophy, Women, Worldview

Psalm 145

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord Extolled for His Goodness
MT Intro
A Psalm of praise,
of David.
A Song of God's Majesty and Love Hymn Epitomizing the Character of the God of Israel
(an acrostic)
A Hymn of Praise Praise to Yahweh the King
(acrostic)
145:1-7 145:1-3 145:1-3 145:1-3 145:1-3
  145:4-7 145:4-7 145:4-9 145:4-5
        145:6-7
145:8-13 145:8-9 145:8-9   145:8-9
  145:10-13 145:10-13b 145:10-13b 145:10-11
        145:12-13b
    145:13c-20 145:13c-16 145:13c-14
145:14-16 145:14-16      
        145:15-16
145:17-21 145:17-21   145:17-20 145:17-18
        145:19-20
    145:21 145:21 145:21

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This is an acrostic Psalm. There are other examples in the Psalter.

1. Psalm 9 and 10

2. Psalm 25

3. Psalm 34

4. Psalm 37

5. Psalm 111

6. Psalm 112

7. Psalm 119

8. Psalm 145

Acrostics can also be seen in Pro. 31:16-31 and Lamentations 1; 2; 3; and 4. There are 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet. There are only 21 verses in this Psalm, so obviously one letter is omitted. The Hebrew "N" has somehow been misplaced in the Masoretic text (see SPECIAL TOPIC: TEXTUAL CRITICISM). It is included in all of the ancient versions—the Septuagint, the Vulgate, and the Peshitta. We find it in one Hebrew manuscript in the Dead Sea Scrolls, 11QPsa.

B. This Psalm is about the character of Israel's God and His acts which reveal that character. See Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God.

C. This Psalm has a unique universal element which can be seen in Ps. 145:8-21. This is one of the unique glimpses into the heart of God which shows His love for all peoples of the earth and of His desire for all people to know Him by faith (cf. Ezek. 18:23,32; John 3:16; 4:42; 1 Tim. 2:4; 4:10; Titus 2:11; 2 Pet. 3:9; 1 John 2:1; 4:14; see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 145:1-7
 11I will extol You, my God, O King,
 And I will bless Your name forever and ever.
 2Every day I will bless You,
 And I will praise Your name forever and ever.
 3Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
 And His greatness is unsearchable.
 4One generation shall praise Your works to another,
 And shall declare Your mighty acts.
 5On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
 And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
 6Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
 And I will tell of Your greatness.
 7They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
 And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.

145:1 "I will extol You" Notice the personal element expressed so often in Ps. 145:1-7. This is clearly seen by the phrase, "my God." It is obvious that personal faith is the beginning point in understanding the God of creation and in history.

This opening strophe (i.e., Ps. 145:1-7) has several cohortatives.

1. I will extol You, Ps. 145:1 - BDB 926, KB 1202, Polel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

2. I will bless Your name, Ps. 145:1 - BDB 138, KB 159, Piel cohortative

3. I will bless You, Ps. 145:2 - BDB 138, KB 159, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

4. I will praise Your name, Ps. 145:3 - BDB 237, KB 248, Piel cohortative

5. I will meditate on Your wonderful works, Ps. 145:5 - BDB 967, KB 1319, Qal cohortative

6. I will tell of Your greatness, Ps. 145:6 - BDB 707, KB 765, Piel imperfect used in a cohortative sense

True faithful followers must express their faith and praise of YHWH.

▣ "O King" YHWH was the true King of Israel (cf. 1 Sam. 8:7). The earthly king was only a mere representative of the heavenly King (cf. Ps. 10:16; 29:10; 98:6).

▣ "I will bless Your name" The concept of "blessing" (BDB 138-verb, 139-noun) is part of the Hebrew theology related to the power of the spoken word. See SPECIAL TOPIC: BLESSING.

The term "name" (BDB 1027) is a Hebraic way of referring to the person. See Special Topic: "The Name" of YHWH.

Israel's Deity is called Eloah in Ps. 145:1 but YHWH nine times in the rest of the Psalm. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY.

▣ "forever and ever" The phrase is used in Ps. 145:1b and 2b and seems to be used in the same sense in Ps. 34:1, which is explicitly expressed in Ps. 145:2a. It is not really an affirmation of the afterlife but a Hebrew idiom of daily praise. See Special Topic: Forever ('olam).

145:3 "His greatness is unsearchable" The noun "greatness" (BDB 153) is used of both

1. God Himself - 1 Chr. 29:11; Ps. 48:1; 86:10; 147:5

2. His acts - 2 Sam. 7:21; 1 Chr. 17:19-21

"Unsearchable" (lit. "there is no searching," i.e., noun construct) is used in Job 5:9; 9:10; 11:7. The same concept of God's ways being far above our understanding is expressed in Ps. 40:5,28; 139:6; Isa. 40:28; 55:8,9; Rom. 11:33.

145:4 "One generation shall praise Your works to another" This is an emphasis of passing on their faith to their children (cf. Deut. 4:9,10; 6:7,20-25; 11:19; 32:7,46; Ps. 22:30,31).

The verbs of Ps. 145:4 are imperfects but they may be jussive in meaning, describing the psalmist's wishes/prayers. The same is true of Ps. 145:6 and 7 (NET Bible, p. 1009).

▣ "Your mighty acts" This emphasis is on the God who acts in fidelity to His covenant promises, cf. Ps. 145:4,5,6,7,12. Usually this term refers to God's past redemptive acts, such as the Exodus.

145:5 "On the glorious splendor of Your majesty" Human vocabulary is quite inadequate to express the glory of God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA) [OT]). Here is a series of words which are linked together in order to catch the glorious nature of God.

1. splendor - BDB 214, cf. 1 Chr. 16:27; Ps. 29:4; 90:16; 96:6; 104:1; 111:3; Isa. 2:10,19,21

2. majesty - BDB 217, cf. 1 Chr. 16:27; 29:11; Ps. 96:6; 111:3; 148:13

3. wondrous - BDB 810, see Special Topic: Wonderful Things

 

▣ "I will meditate" Faithful followers will remember YHWH's great acts, cf. Ps. 145:7. It is amazing how many times in the Bible faithful followers are admonished to remember what God has done!

145:6 "Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts" This is the first allusion to "all men," which is the common refrain of Ps. 145:8-21. This has contextual potential of including all Gentiles, as well as Jews. However, it may be a literary necessity which is produced by the acrostic form of writing.

Notice the number of ways the psalmist refers to YHWH's works.

1. Your works, Ps. 145:4a, 9b, 10a

2. Your mighty acts, Ps. 145:4b, 12

3. Your wonderful works, Ps. 145:5b

4. Your awesome acts, Ps. 145:6a

This refers to

1. the creation and/or the flood

2. acts of forgiveness and restoration

3. call of Abraham and the Patriarchs

4. the Exodus

5. the Conquest

6. victories in battle

7. etc.

 

145:7 "eagerly utter" The verb (BDB 615, KB 665, Hiphil imperfect) means "to bubble up." It is used often in a metaphorical sense (cf. Psalm 19:2; 78:2; 119:171, 145:7). It denotes a constant, excited proclamation.

▣ "Your righteousness" The term "righteousness" (BDB 842) comes from the Hebrew root, "a measuring reed." It can be used in two ways in the OT:

1. God's transcendent holiness and eternality

2. His acts of redeeming Israel

See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 145:8-13
 8The Lord is gracious and merciful;
 Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness.
 9The Lord is good to all,
 And His mercies are over all His works.
 10All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
 And Your godly ones shall bless You.
 11They shall speak of the glory of Your kingdom
 And talk of Your power;
 12To make known to the sons of men Your mighty acts
 And the glory of the majesty of Your kingdom.
 13Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
 And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.

145:8 "The Lord is gracious and merciful;
 Slow to anger and great in lovingkindness"
This is a direct quote from Exod. 34:6,7 and is repeated in Ps. 103:8. It not only gives us the characteristics of God's nature, but again shows one of His mighty acts in history initiated by grace, not by human merit (i.e., the Exodus). See SPECIAL TOPIC: CHARACTERISTICS OF ISRAEL'S GOD.

145:9 "The Lord is good to all,
 And His mercies are over all His works"
God has an everlasting love for humans created in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26,27; 3:8). See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

145:10 "All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord" Compare this with Ps. 103:19-22.

NASB"godly ones"
NKJV, Peshitta"saints"
NRSV, NJB"faithful"
TEV"people"
JPSOA"faithful ones"
REB"loyal servants"
LXX"devout"

This Hebrew adjective (BDB 339) is based on the root חסד ("hesed," BDB 338, see Special Topic: Lovingkindness [hesed]). It is predominately used for faithful covenant followers (cf. 1 Sam. 2:9; Ps. 4:3; 12:1; 30:4; 31:24; 37:28; 50:5; 79:2; 85:8; 86:2; 89:19; 97:10; 116:15; 145:10; 148:14; 149:9), but could also refer to

1. priests - Deut. 33:8; 2 Chr. 6:4; Ps. 132:16

2. the Messiah - Ps. 16:10

3. angels of the heavenly council - Ps. 29:1; 103:19-22; 148:2; and this strophe

 

145:11-12 These verses can refer to

1. angelic praise - see #3 in Ps. 145:10

2. faithful followers' task of making YHWH known to all humans (i.e., "sons of men")

It is hard to decide which is to be preferred. Number 1 represents all creation glorifying its Creator (cf. Ps. 103:19-22; 148:2) and number 2 is the purpose of the call of Abraham (see Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

145:13 "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom" This concept of an eternal kingdom is found in Ps. 10:16; 29:10; Isa. 9:6-7; Dan. 2:44; 4:3,34; 6:26; 7:14,26; 2 Pet. 1:11. See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God.

▣ "deed" This is where most modern translations insert the missing nun phrase from the LXX, Peshitta and Vulgate, and one Hebrew manuscript of the Dead Sea Scrolls (i.e., 11QPsa), "God is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His deeds." This is very similar to Ps. 145:17.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 145:14-16
 14The Lord sustains all who fall
 And raises up all who are bowed down.
 15The eyes of all look to You,
 And You give them their food in due time.
 16You open Your hand
 And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

145:14 "The Lord sustains all who fall" Psalm 145:14-16 speaks of God providing faithful followers' physical needs, while Ps. 145:17-21 speaks of God providing for their spiritual needs. Notice the repetitive use of the term "all."

145:15 "The eyes of all look to You" These verses state that God provides food for all of His creatures, cf. Ps. 104:27,28; 136:25.

145:16 This is the concept of "Providence." God creates and sustains this planet and all its life forms. This action in the OT is attributed to Elohim (see Special Topic: Names for Deity). 

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 145:17-21
 17The Lord is righteous in all His ways
 And kind in all His deeds.
 18The Lord is near to all who call upon Him,
 To all who call upon Him in truth.
 19He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him;
 He will also hear their cry and will save them.
 20The Lord keeps all who love Him,
 But all the wicked He will destroy.
 21My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,
 And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever.

145:17 "And kind in all His deeds" This is the Hebrew word hesed, which speaks of God's covenant loyalty. It was used earlier in Ps. 145:8 to describe God's character and here to describe God's acts.

145:18 "The Lord is near" This is an emphasis on the eminence of God, while Ps. 145:5 is denoting His transcendence, cf. Ps. 34:18; 119:151; and especially Deut. 4:7.

▣ "To all who call upon Him" There is a series of conditions (i.e., Ps. 145:18-20). It must be remembered that all of God's covenants are unconditional on His part but conditional on human response. These four conditions speak of repentance and faith, both initial and ongoing, on the part of the people of God. See notes at Rom. 10:9-13 online.

145:19 "those who fear Him" See Special Topic: Fear (OT).

145:20 "But all the wicked He will destroy" This does not speak of annihilation in death but of physical judgment, cf. Ezek. 14:9; Amos 9:8; Hab. 2:2 (see Robert Girdlestone, Synonyms of the Old Testament, p. 178).

145:21 "And all flesh will bless His holy name forever and ever" Again, this is like Ps. 145:1 and 3. It is not an affirmation of an afterlife, but that certainly is implied, as in Phil. 2:6-11.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk n the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. List the praise-worthy attributes of God.

2. This Psalm refers to YHWH's acts in several verses and in several ways. What acts is it referring to?

3. How does Ps. 145:8-16 (and 145:21) communicate YHWH's universal love?

4. Who are "the godly ones" of Ps. 145:10?

5. Who are "the sons of men" of Ps. 145:12?

6. Does the OT focus on an eternal kingdom or a millennium?

7. How does the "transcendence" of Ps. 145:5 relate to the "eminence" of Ps. 145:18?

8. List the four conditions of Ps. 145:18-20 which relate to faithful followers.

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