17-18a). 4 Even before there is a word on my tongue,. Chapter 139 Some of the Jewish doctors are of opinion that this is the most excellent of all the psalms of David; and a very pious devout meditation it is upon the doctrine of God’s omniscience, which we should therefore have our hearts fixed upon and filled with in singing this psalm. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. We should not wonder that this is so. Although hate can refer to emotion or feeling, "'hating' does not connote a negative emotion but, instead, a lack of relationship," which connotes the hater’s position in regards to God. Psalm 139 is the 139th psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "O lord, thou hast searched me, and known me. My soul knows that very well. Elsewhere the psalmist says, “for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). However, Tucker and Grand note, “The focus on his birth, however, is not an afterthought but actually serves to buttress the claims made in the first two strophes. 8 If I ascend up into heaven, you are there. But the psalmist declares that, if he were to find himself in one of those distant places, he would find Yahweh there. “For the Chief Musician” (Hebrew: menasseah––leader). God hears every word we speak. It is no wonder that the lectionary omits these verses. “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully (Hebrew: yare) and wonderfully made” (v. 14a). “My frame (Heb. Like fugitives, we may run, but we cannot ultimately hide from the God who penetrates even the darkness with the gaze of His light. This connects well with the rest of v. 15, where the “secret” place and “depths of the earth” likely refers to the depths his mother’s womb. But this verse takes it a step further. and Kahane, Ahuvia, The Oxford English-Hebrew Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 1998), Fohrer, Georg, Hebrew & Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament (SCM Press, 2012), Freedman, David Noel (ed. Even then they would spend most of the day independently. The darkness is like light to you. He has seen our comings and goings, our faithfulness and faithlessness. Psalms 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), and that would include the psalmist. Yahweh sees clearly what the psalmist sees only dimly, as if in a primitive mirror (1 Corinthians 13:12). Yahweh has taken the initiative to know the psalmist in depth, which sounds like a lover seeking to understand the beloved. The issue of Davidic authorship of the psalms is sufficiently complex that I can’t do it justice. If I … They could see that they were fearfully and wonderfully made––but not a great deal more. The word nepes means soul, but not in the sense that we often use that word. The word’s later use in the Talmud suggests the term could be construed as meaning ‘embryo’ or something that was formless or shapeless” (922). Psalm 139:1–12. My soul (Hebrew: nepes) knows that very well” (v. 14b). Yet as the poem draws to a close, it is the psalmist’s nearness to God (v. 18b) that gives him cause for hope even in the face of impending threats. Come. has pastored on Capitol Hill and with the Evangelical Covenant Church in Michigan. 9 If I take the wings of the dawn, “When I wake up, I am still with you” (v. 18b). Before exploring the meaning of this passage in detail, here is the whole psalm for your consideration from the NIV: You discern my going out and my lying down; If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. What is your source for the confidence you need to face the headwinds of life? A psalm. Pursue a deeper knowledge of God through self-paced college- and seminary-level online courses in Old and New Testament studies, theology, biblical Greek, and more. Praise him. (General Editor), New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 5 vol., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997), All Rights Reserved | © 1997-2020 Richard Niell Donovan. Impossible! Tucker and Grant coordinate both tasks in their commentary on Psalm 139. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me. and settle in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there your hand will lead me, What’s more, the psalmist uses four verbs of perception, reflecting Yahweh’s attentiveness to the fullness of the psalmist’s life: “to know” (yada‘); “to perceive” (bin); “to discern” (zarah); and “to be familiar with” (sakan). But in the psalmist’s day, there were no anatomical drawings or anything that we would recognize as a doctor’s office or hospital. Of David. The psalmist has no escape. And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. The emphasis here is not on workmanship, but on the mystery of creation itself. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014), Gower, Ralph, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987), Kidner, Derek, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 73-150, Vol. the light around me will be night;”. “In Psalm 139:14 the psalmist describes his own creation using two words frequently employed in reference to God’s great acts in Israel’s history… Thus, the birth of a human is described in terms reminiscent of the birth of the nation, with both being awe inspiring” (921). He knows our thoughts from afar. Although “he cannot know the vast sum of God’s thoughts, he does know that God is with him, whether at the end of his inquiry or the end of his life” (923). PSALM 139 Ps 139:1-24. Worship. “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! Unless the child is asleep or confined to a play pen, she must know minute by minute where the child is and what he/she is doing. Even an insightful human counselor can often see things hidden at our core––and bring them to the surface where we can see them too. We find ourselves doing hateful things––and failing to live according to treasured values (Romans 7:15-20). There are a number of reasons, including the fact that “several Davidic psalms refer to the ‘temple’ (e.g., 5:7, 27:4; 65:4; 68:29” (Broyles, 28)––but the temple was built by David’s son, Solomon, and was not in existence during David’s lifetime. The word hagar in verse 1 means to search or to seek. "I am fearfully and wonderfully made” he declares. Similarly, the reference to Yahweh’s “grasp” of the psalmist in verse 10b leaves open whether this action is positive or negative, a comfort or cause for fear. The word sur (hem me in) usually means to besiege. Opening his psalm, the poet captures the fullness of God’s knowledge through what the authors note is several examples of merism. Yahweh is in front of him and at his rear. Psalms 139, Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical, One of over 110 Bible commentaries freely available, this commentary has been valued for generations and consulted by Bible scholars everywhere STUDY NOTES – JULY 7, 2013 Today’s Scripture: Psalm 139 Psalm 139 (NIV84) — For the director of music. Admonition to the wicked and comfort to the pious are alike implied inferences from these doctrines. Long before God “fearfully and wonderfully made” you, he knew what you would be like and what you would do. “The psalmist acknowledges that human creation, from its beginning, is a mystery and a wonder known only to God” (921). A psalm of David. “Yahweh, you have searched (Hebrew: haqar) me, and you know (Hebrew: yada) me” (v. 1). Enhance your school’s traditional and online education programs by easily integrating online courses developed from the scholars and textbooks you trust. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! Get away from me, you bloodthirsty men! all the days ordained for me were written in your book. (914). The frightening unknowns of dawn and sea would lose their terror when Yahweh was there to sustain him. for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. 19–22). This “I-Thou” relationship serves as the “unifying thread” throughout the psalm. The word zarah in verse 3 means to measure or to scrutinize. The left brain is usually associated with logic and mathematics, and that better fits zarah. Others insist the psalm is a prayer of an unjustly accused person, given the final strophe, while some have suggested it is a complaint uttered by a psalmist in the midst of hostility. As the authors note, “Because God is pervasively present, the comfort of his presence is juxtaposed with the very threat of the same. Enter. ), The Complete WordStudy Old Testament (Chattanooga; AMG Publishers, 1994), Baker, Warren and Carpenter, Eugene, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), Bromiley, Geoffrey (General Editor), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, 4 vols. Through his petitions the psalmist aligns himself with God and asks for God to redress his present circumstances. It sings the omniscience and omnipresence of God, inferring from these the overthrow of the powers of wickedness, since he who sees and hears the abominable deeds and words of the rebellious will surely deal with them according to his justice. No reason is provided or justification offered for the divine hand that has befallen the psalmist. You knit me together in my mother’s womb” (v. 13). This verse states that Yahweh had foreknowledge of the psalmist’s life before he was born. Yahweh created him. Psalm 121 encourages us i... Get expert commentary on biblical languages, fresh explorations in theology, hand-picked book excerpts, author videos, and info on limited-time sales. In this poem, however, the psalmist’s hope rests entirely with the God who knows him, the God with whom he is in relationship. David not only asked, but was prepared to listen to all that God would reveal to him … He continues with a full-orbed look at that presence from birth. When I wake up, I am still with you. even the darkness doesn’t hide from you, but the night shines as the day. From David’s example we can learn how to respond to the character of God—with an attitude of worship and awe, as well as profound intimacy and friendship with the One who knows us completely yet still loves us deeply. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there! Instead, Yahweh has set boundaries around the psalmist to protect him from the dangers and temptations that come to us from every corner. Christ calls us to love even our enemies––not to hate them (Matthew 5:44). AN EXPOSITION OF PSALM 139 by Charles H. Spurgeon One of the most notable of the sacred hymns. But the psalmist is saying something that transcends the wonder of the birth process. However, we need to acknowledge two things about these verses: 23 Search me, God, and know my heart. 9-10). We are often confused, conflicted, and short-sighted. Some would interpret that to mean that Yahweh predestined the psalmist’s life. ), which the WEB has updated. Tucker and Davis offer an overview of these four movements: The language adopted in the first two strophes underscores the dominance of the “I-Thou” relationship in the poem. One of the greatest truths in life which we all know, but which we all must come to learn, is that there is no escape from God. (7-16) The psalmist's hatred to sin, and desire to be led aright. Chapter 139 God knows all things. The final strophe abruptly shifts from hymnic language to more petitionary language. “For there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether” (v. 4). Nothing past, present or future is hidden from Him. He knows our every movement hour by hour and day by day. When we are doing something wrong, we would prefer that God look the other way. One image that comes to mind is a mother tending her child. The word derek means path or way. But the psalmist expresses his faith that, in the presence of Yahweh, there is no night––no darkness. As they explain: A merism is a poetic technique that expresses a totality by mentioning two parts, typically polar opposites … Poetically speaking, a merism provides vivid images that are meant to replace more abstract concepts such as “all,” “every,” or “always.” Given this intended usage, a merism is meant to be understood figuratively or metaphorically, but not literally. Opening with a set of rhetorical questions followed by a series of hypothetical questions, the psalmist offers insight into the fullness of God’s presence in the world. The psalmist acknowledges that Yahweh understands him better than the psalmist understands himself. 139:23, 24. This knowledge is firmly in view through the rest of this first strophe, where the reach of Yahweh’s knowledge extends to even the psalmists thoughts (v 4). Try me, and know my thoughts. “The verb ‘to search’ (haqar) can refer to searching out land (Judg 18:2) or searching out a city (2 Sam 10:3), but often, especially in the wisdom literature, the verb means ‘to search’ in the sense of ‘to examine’” (917). Give thanks. Does he feel supported or hemmed in? 1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;. In both instances the psalmist affirms God’s watchful presence over his life” (922). In your book they were all written, He likens that task to trying to count every grain of sand. However, “Rarely do hymns remind us of the kind of pervasive presence of God in our lives that might prompt a sense of holy fear. W. Dennis Tucker and Jamie A. Grant provide insight into the meaning and composition of this magisterial psalm in their new commentary Psalms, Volume 2 (NIV Application Commentary). But verses 9-12 suggest that the psalmist finds God’s presence comforting, not threatening. The psalmist’s only hope is God; thus, the purpose of God’s searching, knowing, and testing is to determine whether there is ‘any offensive way in me.’” Why? They used the word nepes to mean breath, the animating force that gives the creature life. Your form could not be submitted. The Israelites thought of their bodies holistically. We might think of hagar and zarah as reflecting the right brain/left brain dichotomy. The first three strophes praise God for his comprehensive knowledge of the psalmist, the fullness of his presence in the world, and his power as Creator. I. LORD, you have probed me, you know me:. There is a point of contact between our knowledge and God’s knowledge. 3 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2016), Tate, Marvin E., Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100 (Dallas: Word Books, 1990), Waltner, James H., Believers Church Bible Commentary: Psalms (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 2006), Baker, Warren (ed. Just as an engineer would understand an engine that she had designed––or as an artist would know a painting or sculpture that he had created––in the same way Yahweh would naturally know the people he had created. It sings the omniscience and omnipresence of God, inferring from these the overthrow of the powers of wickedness, since he who sees and hears the The psalmist is speaking out of his zeal for Yahweh. It is more analytical and less emotional than hagar, and is therefore less winsome––less charming. 18 If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand. “For you formed my inmost being (Hebrew: kilyah). The final strophe, however, shifts both in focus and tenor. even the darkness will not be dark to you; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. If that means that God doesn’t give the individual the option of choosing good or evil––life or death––I have a serious problem with it. Psalm 139:7-10, 12 “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Here’s why: The God who has known us from our very beginnings is the God who has watched us all along. 1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. … 7 Where could I go from your Spirit? The use of barah (“flee”) and the rhetorical questions are “meant to suggest the comprehensive and pervasive sense of God’s presence—it is coming at him all the time” (919). These seven commands form the backbone of one of the most instructive psalms on giving grateful praise to the Lord: Psalm 100. “You search out (Hebrew: zarah) my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways” (v. 3). There has been considerable debate about the precise genre of this psalm. Is hagar superior to zarah? Anderson, A.A., The New Century Bible Commentary: Psalms 73-150 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972), Broyles, Craig C., New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999, Brueggemann, Walter, The Message of the Psalms A Theological Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1984), Clifford, Richard J., Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), DeClaisse-Walford, Nancy; Jacobson, Rolf A.; Tanner, Beth Laneel, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids: Wm. They have become my enemies. “In your book they were all written, the days that were ordained (Hebrew: yasar––formed or fashioned) for me, when as yet there were none of them” (v. 16b). Even there, God is present in his life. The darkness quickly ceases to be darkness because of the radiant light of God. 3 You search out my path and my lying down, Others still highlight the wisdom themes present and prefer a “meditation” or “wisdom meditation” label. Psalm 139: No Escape From God Related Media. A fisherman would be well acquainted with the sea, but would understand that the uttermost parts of the sea were distant beyond measure. “This knowledge is beyond me. “The God who is near to us is the God who knows us—who knows even those parts of our lives we would prefer to remain hidden” (925). (1-6) He is every where present. In Psalm 139 the psalmist’s anxieties are due to the threat posed by the enemies mentioned in verses 19–22. 2 you know when I sit and stand; * a. you understand my thoughts from afar. Regardless of where he flees—going up to heaven or down into the depths, traveling east or west—“he can escape neither the grasp nor the notice of Israel’s God” (920). The supplicant David, then, blends wisdom themes with a complaint in offering his psalm of prayer and worship before the Lord. By submitting your email address, you understand that you will receive email communications from HarperCollins Christian Publishing (501 Nelson Place, Nashville, TN 37214 USA) providing information about products and services of HCCP and its affiliates. Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? Word sur ( hem me in the depths of the most notable of the sea stand for incomprehensibly distant remote! And actions are open before him values ( Romans 7:15-20 ) me were written in book... Loves us enough to use both ways to understand the beloved can often see things hidden at our bring... “ to know, ” occurs seven times in the sense that has. Textbooks you trust the last judgment menasseah––leader ) the surface where we can be grateful Yahweh... In focus and tenor that better fits hagar and short-sighted in focus and.... 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