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Psalm 19

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Works and Word of God The Perfect Revelation of the Lord Hymn to God as Creator of Nature and Giver of the Law God's Glory in Creation Yahweh, Son of Saving Justice
MT Intro
For the choir director. A Psalm of David.
       
19:1-6  19:1-4b 19:1-4b 19:1-6 19:1-2
        19:3-5
  19:4c-6 19:4c-6    
      The Law of the Lord 19:6
19:7-14 19:7-11 19:7-10 19:7-11 19:7
        19:8
        19:9
    19:11-13   19:11-12
  19:12-13   19:12-13  
        19:13
  19:14 19:14 19:14 19:14

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.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. This Psalm is about how humans know God. They cannot discover Him. He must reveal Himself and He has in two ways.

 

B. God's revelation must be personally received and implemented! It is not primarily a creed but a personal relationship with God.

 

C. This Psalm has been a great blessing to my life in two ways.

1. it shows the trustworthiness and preciousness of Scripture (i.e., Ps. 19:7-10)

2. it gives a hope and peace amidst the daily struggle with sin (i.e., Ps. 19:11-14)

The prayer of verse 14 is one I pray often!

 

D. Brief Outline

1. General revelation (God reveals Himself in nature, Ps. 19:1-6, cf. Rom. 1:19-20; also note Rom. 2:14-15)

2. Special revelation (God reveals Himself by what He does, cf. parallel of line 2), which is recorded in the Bible, yet supremely in His Son, Ps. 19:7-11, cf. John 1:1-14; 14:6,9; 2 Cor. 5:17-21 (see Biblical Interpretation Seminar online at www.freebiblecommentary.org, which includes information about general hermeneutical procedures and special procedures for different genres)

3. Prayer of surrender, Ps. 19:12-14

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 19:1-6
 1The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
 And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
 2Day to day pours forth speech,
 And night to night reveals knowledge.
 3There is no speech, nor are there words;
 Their voice is not heard.
 4Their line has gone out through all the earth,
 And their utterances to the end of the world.
 In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
 5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
 It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
 6Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
 And its circuit to the other end of them;
 And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

19:1 "The heavens are telling of the glory of God" This is known as "natural revelation." Romans 1:19-20 expresses the same truth that everyone can know something about God from the physical creation. Also notice Rom. 2:14-15 which asserts an inner moral witness in humans.

▣ "heavens" Note Ps. 8:1; 50:6 and how they relate to the theology of Rom. 1:19-20. See Special Topic at Psalm 2:4.

▣ "glory" See BDB 458, #2, C, (2).

SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA)

NASB"expanse"
NKJV, NRSV,
LXX"firmament"
NRSV footnote"dome"
NJB, REB"the vault of heaven"
JPSOA"sky"

The term (BDB 956) is used in Gen. 1:6,7 (thrice),8,14,15,17. It denotes the Hebrew concept of the atmosphere as a solid dome or stretched skin (i.e., tent, cf. Ps. 104:2; Isa. 40:22). The windows of heaven must be opened to allow the rain to fall.

Notice that "heavens" in line 1 is parallel to "expanse" in line 2.

▣ "the work of His hands" This phrase is asserting the personal involvement of YHWH in creation (cf. Isa. 48:13; 64:8). It specifically reflects His personal creation of Adam in Gen. 2:7 (i.e., "formed," not spoken into existence).

19:2-3 "day to day" Notice the personification of both the "day" and "night." The point is that creation continuously, though silently (cf. Ps. 19:3), is giving the revelation/message about God (i.e., a good modern proponent of this concept is the "Intelligent Design" movement).

19:2 "pour forth" This verb (BDB 615, KB 665, Hiphil imperfect) has the basic meaning of a "bubbling spring" (cf. Pro. 18:4). It came to be used metaphorically of speaking

1. positively — Ps. 19:2; 119:171; 145:7; Pro. 1:23

2. negatively — Ps. 59:7; 94:4; Pro. 15:28

 

▣ "night to night reveals knowledge" Mankind has always looked in awe and sometimes idolatry at the starry heavens (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:5; Ps. 8:1,3).

19:3 "There is no speech" This refers to nature's silent, but powerful, witness.

19:4

NASB, NKJV"line"
NRSV, JPSOA"voice"
TEV, NJB,
NRSV, REB"message"
LXX, NASB
margin"sound"
NEB"music"
Peshitta"words"

The MT has קקם (BDB 876 II, KB 1081 from קו), which denotes a "boundary line," "musical melody" (cf. NEB). The UBS Text Project gives it an "A" rating. However, the LXX and Jerome have קולם (BDB 876, KB 1083 from קול) which means "speech," "word," "cry," which seems to fit the context best (same root in Ps. 19:3, i.e., ‘voice"). The early church used (i.e., quoted from) the LXX.

▣ "through all the earth. . .to the ends of the world" These first two lines of Ps. 19:4 are synonymous parallelism. The theological thrust is the universal availability of God's revelation to humans (cf. Isa. 42:10; 49:6; 62:11). All are responsible for their knowledge of God (Rom. 1:18-3:18).

Natural revelation (i.e., through the physical creation and an inner moral witness) results in a spiritual responsibility on the part of all humans (cf. Rom. 1:18-3:18). Once a person is saved it then becomes a way of wonder, praise, and worship of the God of creation (cf. Psalm 8).

19:4c-6 "the sun" This imagery using the sun is not a scientific description or mythological account but typical OT language using popular descriptive idioms for a natural phenomenon. Notice the imagery.

1. the sun has a tent (i.e., abode), Ps. 19:4c

2. the sun is a bridegroom, Ps. 19:5a

3. the sun runs a set course, Ps. 19:5b (i.e., described in Ps. 19:6)

As the sun lights all the earth, so too, the revelation of God's character, power, beauty, and design is universal (cf. Ps. 19:4a,b). Every human knows something about God. The only other place that "natural revelation" is used theologically to denote human responsibility is Rom. 1:18-3:18.

Paul also specifically used this verse in Rom. 10:18 in a context that denotes the need of the world hearing/receiving the message of God in Christ (i.e., the gospel). The rabbis of Paul's day often put several quotes together to make a point. Paul was trained in the procedure.

The psalmist possibly picked the sun as a servant of YHWH to critique the sun worship of the ANE. This Psalm, like Genesis 1, shows YHWH as creator and controller of the heavenly bodies (i.e., sun, moon, stars, planets, comets, etc.). They are not gods or angels that control, or even affect, the lives of humans!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 19:7-14
 7The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
 The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
 8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
 The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
 9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
 The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
 10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
 Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
 11Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
 In keeping them there is great reward.
 12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
 13Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
 Let them not rule over me;
 Then I will be blameless,
 And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
 14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
 Be acceptable in Your sight,
 O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

19:7 "the Lord" This is the covenant name for God, YHWH. It is from the Hebrew verb "to be," cf. Exod. 3:14. The rabbis say it refers to God in His special covenant relationship to Israel. See Special Topic at Ps. 1:1.

▣ "perfect" See SPECIAL TOPIC: BLAMELESS, INNOCENT, GUILTLESS, WITHOUT REPROACH at Ps. 18:20-24.

19:7-9 "law. . .testimony. . .precepts. . .commandment. . .fear. . .judgments" These are synonyms for God's written revelation. See Special Topic at Ps. 1:2.

▣ "perfect. . .sure. . .right. . .pure. . .clean. . .true" These are characteristics of God's written revelation. The Bible is the only clear, self-revelation of God. This is a crucial faith assertion. It is normally called "inspiration" (see Special Topic below). If you are interested in my evidence for this faith presupposition see "The Trustworthiness of the NT" online at www.freebiblecommentary.org, "Video Sermons," Lakeside, Dallas.

SPECIAL TOPIC: INSPIRATION

19:7-11 "restoring. . .making. . .rejoicing. . .enlightening. . .enduring. . .righteous. . .more desirable. . .sweeter. . .warned. . .keeping" This is what the written revelation does for us. Oh, the value of Scripture for fallen humanity!

Notice the threefold parallels.

 

  Titles
for YHWH's Revelation
Description
of YHWH's Revelation
Purpose of YHWH's Revelation
or Description of It
v. 7a the law of the Lord perfect/blameless restoring the soul
v. 7b the testimony of the Lord sure making wise the simple (cf. Ps. 119:98-100)
v. 8a the precepts of the Lord right rejoicing the heart (cf. Ps. 119:14)
v. 8b the commandment of the Lord pure enlightening the eyes (cf. Ps. 36:9; 119:130)
v. 9a the fear of the Lord clean enduring forever
v. 9b the judgments of the Lord true righteous altogether (cf. Deut. 32:4; Ps. 119:138)
v. 10a they more desirable gold, fine gold (cf. Ps. 119:72, 127)
v. 10b they sweeter honey, honey comb (cf. Ps. 119:103)
v. 11a   keeping them great reward
v. 11b   Your servant warned

What powerful repetition and parallelism! God's revelation is redemptive, informative, prescriptive, and a real blessing! Oh, thank God for revelation!

19:8-9 "righteous" The Hebrew root originally meant "a measuring reed." It speaks of a standard for judgment. God Himself is that standard. See Special Topic at Ps. 1:5.

19:9 "fear" This feminine noun (BDB 432, KB 433) means "revere" or "with awe and respect." The concept is used often in Wisdom Literature (cf. Job 4:6; 6:14; 22:4; 28:28; Ps. 5:7; 34:11; 90:11; 111:10; 119:38; Pro. 1:7; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26-27; 15:16; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17). The recurrent message is that awe/respect/fear are the beginning of wisdom! Without God there is no truth, just fallen human opinions and traditions (cf. Isa. 29:13).

▣ "enduring forever" This same truth is expressed by Jesus in Matt. 5:18; 24:35; Mark. 13:31; Luke 21:33.

19:10 "they are more desirable than gold. . .honey" Does this describe your attitude toward God's revelation? Is your Bible your most precious property?

19:11 "the servant is warned" God has given us a guideline for a life of peace and joy, but it must be lived out! There is a divine path (see note at Ps. 1:1) and we must stay on it (cf. Matt. 7:13-14).

19:12-13 These verses are a recognition and prayer that amidst our current fallen ignorance and folly God will deal effectively with our fallen nature.

1. "Who can discern his errors?" (cf. Ps. 40:12). Only God knows the heart. He must judge (cf. Ps. 139:23-24; 1 Cor. 4:4-5; Heb. 4:12-13).

2. "Acquit me of hidden faults." This is an imperative of prayer (BDB 667, KB 720, Piel imperative). Notice it is "hidden faults," not open-eyed rebellion (cf. Lev. 4:2,22,27; 5:15-18; 22:14).

3. "Keep back from presumptuous sins." This is another imperative of prayer (BDB 362, KB 359, Qal imperative). This is open-eyed rebellion.

The adjective "presumptuous" (BDB 267) is used several times in Psalm 119 (cf. Ps. 19:21, 51,69,78,85,122) and translated "arrogant," which denotes an attitude of rebellion. In this context it refers to known sins.

4. "Let them not rule over me." This verb is a Qal imperfect but is used in a jussive sense. This is another point of prayer. Sin is a slave-master (cf. Rom. 5:21; 6:9,14,17,23).

The last two lines of Ps. 19:13 state the requested results of the psalmist's prayer.

1. I shall be blameless

2. I shall be acquitted of great transgression

The psalmist had great confidence in YHWH's desire and ability to forgive and forget sin/sins (cf. Isa. 1:18; 38:17; 43:25; 44:22; Micah 7:19). We only learn of the mechanism of this forgiveness in the NT record and interpretation of the life, teachings, death, resurrection, ascension, and return of Jesus the Christ (i.e., the gospel). As the Psalm extols the wonder and greatness of God's written revelation, only the NT reveals the splendor of God's incarnate revelation (i.e., the Living Word)! Jesus is the ultimate revelation of God (cf. John 1:1-14; Col. 1:13-17; Heb. 1:2-3).

19:14 In light of the power of God's revelation and His marvelous forgiveness, the psalmist continues his prayer.

1. Let the words of my mouth (one verb, BDB 224, KB 243, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense, controls #1,2,3)

2. Let the meditations of my heart

3. "Acceptable" (BDB 953) is

a. a common sacrificial term in Leviticus

b. a very common word in Wisdom Literature

NIV translates it as

1) pleased/pleasing/pleasure

2) acceptable/accepted

3) favor/favored

4) fitting

5) delight

Once we know Him and are changed by Him, we want to live in a way that pleases Him. A way that brings others to Him. True forgiveness must issue in a changed and changing life of godliness (cf. Rom. 8:28-30; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19; Eps. 1:4; 4:13; 1 Thess. 4:3; 5:23; 2 Thess. 2:13; Titus 2:14; 1 Pet. 1:15)! The goal of biblical faith is not heaven when we die but Christlikeness now!

Several descriptive titles close this Psalm as they started Psalm 18 (i.e., Ps. 19:2).

1. YHWH (i.e., ever-living, ever-present, only God)

2. Rock

3. Redeemer (Qal participle, see Special Topic below)

 

SPECIAL TOPIC: RANSOM/REDEEM

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. What is "general revelation"? What can it tell you about God?

2. What is included in "special revelation"? What can it tell you about God?

3. Why are two different names for God used in this Psalm?

4. Do you find as much joy in the Law of God as this Psalm describes?

5. List characteristics of the Law.

6. What should I do about unknown sins?

7. What are "presumptuous sins"? What is so serious about them in the OT?

8. What is the meaning of verse 14 to you?