Whether the proper translation is frame, bones, or strength, the psalmist is acknowledging that  the core of the psalmist’s being was an open book to Yahweh even when it was being formed in secret in the depths of the earth––when it would have been invisible to anyone else. 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). Christ calls us to love even our enemies––not to hate them (Matthew 5:44). Tucker and Grant consi… We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), and that would include the psalmist. The psalmist is praying that God will show him the Godly path that God would call him to trod. The God who calls David from the fields to be his anointed king is the same God who chastens David for his pursuit of Bathsheba” (926). 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. Yahweh lays his hand on the psalmist to steady him––to reassure him––to guide him––to strengthen him––not to trap him. In this poem, however, the psalmist’s hope rests entirely with the God who knows him, the God with whom he is in relationship. This verse states that Yahweh had foreknowledge of the psalmist’s life before he was born. The reciprocal is also true. Commentary on Psalm 139:1-6 (Read Psalm 139:1-6) God has perfect knowledge of us, and all our thoughts and actions are open before him. 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. (920). It is more analytical and less emotional than hagar, and is therefore less winsome––less charming. And by beginning he really means beginning—as in the embryo stage! 1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;. He affirms that Yahweh formed him in his mother’s womb, a process that remained invisible to people until the advent of modern medical imaging. 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.Others still highlight the wisdom themes present and prefer a “meditation” or “wisdom meditation” label. But verses 9-12 suggest that the psalmist finds God’s presence comforting, not threatening. It makes sense that Yahweh would know the psalmist. Of David. I can’t attain it” (v. 6). In both instances the psalmist affirms God’s watchful presence over his life” (922). Psalm 139:5b is a statement of YHWH's sovereignty and control of His human creature (cf. And he petitions God to act because they are against him, God himself. Yahweh  has taken the initiative to know the psalmist in depth, which sounds like a lover seeking to understand the beloved. 1 O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. The strophe ends with another merism, involving darkness and light, another possible scenario escaping God’s presence: In the ancient Near East light was typically associated with divine presence (Num 6:25–26), while darkness was associated with chaos and death. Yahweh knows, not only what the psalmist expresses in words, but also the thoughts of his mind. Enhance your school’s traditional and online education programs by easily integrating online courses developed from the scholars and textbooks you trust. The word sur (hem me in) usually means to besiege. But in the psalmist’s day, there were no anatomical drawings or anything that we would recognize as a doctor’s office or hospital. Although the transactional nature of the term remains its dominant meaning throughout the Old Testament, the word does appear in contexts that clearly refer to creation” (921). 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. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979-1988), Brown, Francis; Driver, S.R. Yahweh is indeed close enough to bind him up (in support) but also ‘to lay siege’ to him, should doing so be warranted” (918). In our day, we see anatomical drawings in our doctors’ offices that demonstrate the intricate detail that went into the design of our bodies. ), Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), Mounce, William D., (ed. This “I-Thou” relationship, and the accompanying pervasive, intimate presence of God, roots the psalmist's hope and comfort—as well as our own. In your book they were all written, The word hagar in verse 1 means to search or to seek. Nothing past, present or future is hidden from Him. even the darkness doesn’t hide from you, but the night shines as the day. 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. If I would count them, they are more in number than the sand” (vv. Psalm 139 is a beautiful meditation on four attributes of God: His knowledge, presence, power, and holiness. There is a better way. “Where could I go from your Spirit? Yahweh comes close enough to lay his hand on the psalmist. LORD, you know it all.. 5 Behind and before you encircle me It has a winsome character. ), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2006), Renn, Stephen D., Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005), Richards, Lawrence O., Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Zondervan, 1985, 1991), Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob (ed. 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. 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. 4 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), Ross, Allen P., A Commentary on the Psalms, 90-150, Vol. 13 For you formed my inmost being. A psalm of David. A psalm. Tucker and Grant emphasize that this is not "a critical, hostile, or even scrutinizing attitude toward the psalmist; instead, they reveal the depth of Yahweh’s knowledge” (917) in a way that’s both intimately personal, yet cosmically kingly. “For you formed my inmost being (Hebrew: kilyah). The verb yada‘, “to know,” occurs seven times in the poem (vv. “Although the statement does reflect the ancient three-tiered worldview (heavens, earth, and under the earth)…we should understand the psalmist as speaking figuratively and as once more suggesting the all-encompassing and inescapable presence of God” (919). … A Psalm by David. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), Freedman, David Noel (Ed. “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). And laid Your hand upon me. Psalms 139:4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Tucker and Grant coordinate both tasks in their commentary on Psalm 139. We are content with having God near us, but preferably not too near” (927). and your right hand will hold me. Psalm 139 is one of the more well-known and well-beloved psalms—and for good reason. for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Get away from me, you bloodthirsty men! Readers through the centuries have interpreted “A Psalm of David” to mean “A Psalm written by David,” but a number of scholars question that interpretation today. “Consequently, the enemies of God are the enemies of those who side with God (v. 22)” (924). But Yahweh is not an enemy set on the psalmist’s destruction, as would normally be the case in a siege. The psalmist has been talking about himself as an example of Yahweh’s creative endeavors, but now he broadens the scope to include all of Yahweh’s works––all of creation. No reason is provided or justification offered for the divine hand that has befallen the psalmist. The psalmist acknowledges that Yahweh understands him better than the psalmist understands himself. Note that the Hebrew word translated search in this verse (zarah) is different from the word translated searched (haqar) in verse 1. (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David.) While these sentiments are not as lofty as the rest of this psalm, they represent the honest expression of the psalmist’s heart. A fisherman would be well acquainted with the sea, but would understand that the uttermost parts of the sea were distant beyond measure. ), The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vol. But the psalmist is saying something that transcends the wonder of the birth process. “The psalmist acknowledges that human creation, from its beginning, is a mystery and a wonder known only to God” (921). 139:23, 24. “I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully (Hebrew: yare) and wonderfully made” (v. 14a). 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). With this abundance of first and second person pronouns in the first six verses, Psalm 139 reflects the profound relationship of the “I” and “You” (or, “I” and “Thou”) in ancient Israel. Yet in verse 5 he confesses that God laid his hand upon him. We can be grateful that Yahweh loves us enough to use both ways to understand us. ), 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. As the authors note, “Because God is pervasively present, the comfort of his presence is juxtaposed with the very threat of the same. When I wake up, I am still with you. They offer a few examples of merism: “when I sit” and “when I rise” (v. 2a), “my going out and my lying down” (v. 3a), and “behind and before” (v. 5a). Here’s why: The God who has known us from our very beginnings is the God who has watched us all along. In the presence of Yahweh, “night shines as the day.”  Darkness is like light to Yahweh, because he brings the light of his presence into dark places––so we need not fear darkness when Yahweh is near. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O The soaring language of praise and confession in the first three strophes abruptly ends in verse 18, only to be followed by more ominous and troubling language in the final strophe. If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, you are there!” (vv. The psalm is intimately personal, as is the God to whom the psalm testifies” (925). You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Tucker and Davis offer an overview of these four movements: In Genesis 22, God tests Abraham’s obedience by asking him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether. And they note that this presence and knowledge seems to evoke both “flight and fascination” in the psalmist, both comfort and fear. STUDY NOTES – JULY 7, 2013 Today’s Scripture: Psalm 139 Psalm 139 (NIV84) — For the director of music. 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. and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? Because God has known us, fully known us, we can trust in him when the world goes awry and seems to be in open rebellion against his ways (vv. When we feel this way, we would do well to do what the psalmist has done, which is to address our concerns to God in prayer. “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). 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. Elsewhere the psalmist says, “for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4). “For there is not a word on my tongue, but, behold, Yahweh, you know it altogether” (v. 4). Both are powerful ways for the lover to know the beloved. 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. Impossible! when I was made in secret, The word nepes means soul, but not in the sense that we often use that word. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them." Nothing is hidden from Yahweh’s vision. Is hagar superior to zarah? The psalmist further prays that Yahweh will guide him “in the everlasting way” (derek). You may unsubscribe from these email communications at any time. “Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord?” the Psalmist asks. 7 Where could I go from your Spirit? the light around me will be night;”. 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