Notes on Psalm 103
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 12 August 2013; Revised 16 October 2013
Grammar: Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981). Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (Baker Book House, 1991). Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Greek words used in the Septuagint (LXX) is from Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich (The University of Chicago Press, 1957). English transliteration of Hebrew words is based on the NASB Exhaustive Concordance.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the psalm. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. References to the Mishnah and Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Quotations from the Targums are taken from Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation (2001).
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic and Jewish nature of Scripture I use the terms "Tanakh" (Old Testament) and "Besekh" (New Testament), as well as the terms "Yeshua" (Jesus) and "Messiah" (Christ). This commentary contains the Name of God. If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.
Chapter: 103 in the MT; 102 in the LXX. (Psalms 9 and 10 in the MT are combined in the LXX.) See the Hebrew text and English translation at Biblos Interlinear Bible.
Heb. l'David ("leh-Dah-veed"), translated as "of David" in most Bible versions, verse 1 in the MT. The Targum has "by David" and adds "spoken in prophecy," and it certainly bears the marks of divine inspiration by the Holy spirit. The Syriac has: "By David in his old age" (Gill). The LXX has: "A Psalm by David," although the ABP translates as "A Psalm to David" and NETS has "Pertaining to David." The Grk. David is in the dative case, but owing to the lack of a preposition between "psalm" and "David" the dative case should be treated as a instrumental dative of agency; therefore "by David" is more appropriate. Certainly this was the intention of Jewish translators of the LXX.
Type: Hymn of Praise
Usage in the Besekh: Verse 17 is quoted in Luke 1:50.
· The name of God (YHVH) is mentioned 11 times.
· The psalm begins and ends with "Bless the LORD, O my soul."
· Figurative language occurs in these expressions: "renewed like the eagle" (v. 5), "high as the heavens" (v. 11), "as far as the east is from the west" (v. 12), "as a father has compassion" (v. 13), "like grass," and "as a flower" (v. 15).
Gill says some think it was written by David, after a fit of illness, and his recovery from it, since he speaks of his diseases being healed, and his youth renewed; for which reason the Syriac interpreter suggests it was written in his old age; for he makes the subject of the psalm to be, "concerning coldness which prevailed upon him in old age."
· A hymnic call to bless YHVH, verses 1-2
· The forgiving and redeeming God, verses 3-5
· God's covenant loyalty, verses 6-18
· All the works of God called to bless Him, verses 19-22
(1) of David.
David is one of the most important figures in Israelite history. His name first appears in 1 Samuel 16:13 when God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse in Bethlehem to anoint one of his sons as the next king. At that time David was only a shepherd. Yet, from that humble beginning he would eventually (after many difficulties) become the King of Israel at the age of 30 and reign 40 years (2 Sam 5:4; 1 Chron 3:4). David made a tremendous impact on the nation of Israel. In the military sphere he broke the power of all the pagan peoples in the land of Canaan and in the civil sphere he made Jerusalem his capitol and solidified central authority.
Perhaps most important is his accomplishments in the religious sphere. He erected the Tabernacle on Mt. Zion, centralized religion in Jerusalem and established Levitical choirs. He wrote many psalms and 73 psalms are specifically ascribed to him. He was known as the “sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Sam 23:1). Especially important is that he compiled and organized psalms into what we now know as the Book of Psalms (2 Chron 29:30). David was a true worshipper, a man imbued with the Holy Spirit (1 Sam 13:14; 16:13; 2 Sam 23:2). God chose David to be king because He "sought out for Himself a man after His own heart" (1 Sam 13:14). Then, God made a personal and everlasting covenant with him by which God promised that He would establish the throne of David forever, build a house for Himself and send forth a king from the loins of David to rule over his people Israel (2 Sam 7:12-14; 23:5; 2 Chron 7:18; 13:5; Ps 89:3; Isa 55:3; Jer 33:21).
David's family life is the subject of much analysis and not a little criticism among commentators. He was a polygamist with 8 wives and 10 concubines (2 Sam 3:3-5, 13-14; 5:13; 12:7-8, 24; 15:16). The concubines were probably the servants of his wives (2 Sam 6:20-22). He had 19 named sons of his wives, besides the sons of his concubines, and one named daughter, although many other daughters were born to him (1 Chron 3:1-9; 14:3-7). Thus, his adultery with Bathsheba and conspiracy to kill her husband Uriah was especially egregious (2 Sam 12:7-8).
Yet, in spite of his moral failure the Scripture record is highly complimentary of David. During the time of the divided kingdoms there is an oft repeated phrase to describe the good kings of Judah, "He walked before me as David his father walked" (1 Kgs 3:3, 14; 11:4, 6, 33, 38; 14:8; 15:3, 5, 11; 2 Kgs 14:3; 16:2; 18:3; 22:2). Jeremiah left a simple eulogy of David's life: "David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite" (1 Kgs 15:5). The last comment on David's life in the Tanakh is from Ezra who twice refers to David as a "man of God" (2 Chron 8:14; Neh 12:24).
David also has a highly favorable standing in the Besekh. The apostles tell the story of Yeshua as the story of the Son of David from His birth (Matt 1:1; Rom 1:3; 2 Tim 2:8; Rev 22:16). At least twelve times the apostolic narratives refer to Him as “Son of David.” David is cited as a model of behavior (Matt 12:3), identified as a servant of God (Luke 1:69) and regarded as a Spirit-inspired prophet (Mark 12:36; Acts 1:16; 2:34; 4:25; Rom 11:9; Heb 4:7). David thus took his place in the roll call of faithful heroes (Hebrews 11:32). This was “David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfill all my will” (Acts 13:22).
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless: Heb. barak, Piel imperative, to kneel or to bless. BDB suggests that in this context to bless is to adore God on bended knee (BDB 138). The LXX renders barak with Grk. eulogeo, to invoke divine favor or to express high praise, to bless; in this case the latter meaning. In English “blessed” describes a state of being happy as a result of personal circumstances. However, the Hebrew viewpoint is that a “blessing” is an endowment of beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser. That being the case how can we bless God? That is why some versions use the word "praise" instead of bless. The literal meaning of the verb eliminates any presupposition that a blessing can only be conveyed to the lesser by the greater. If we associate blessing with kneeling, then I can give it as well as receive it. I can bless God because I can certainly kneel before him. Scripture, especially in the Psalms calls us to bless the Lord. To bless God is to acknowledge who He is, what He has done and how much I owe him. I affirm his sovereign superiority over me and his being the source of every blessing.
the LORD: Heb. YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel, referred to in Judaism as either Adonai (Lord) or Hashem (the Name). YHVH dominates in the Tanakh, first occurring in Genesis 2:4. While not reflected in Bible translations YHVH is not a title or a word for a deity, but the personal name of the God of Israel (Ex 3:15; 2 Chron 14:11; Isa 42:8). Translating YHVH with "the LORD" (as in the majority of Bibles, including the JPS-1917 and NJPS) is strange since there is no definite article associated with the Hebrew name and it would be equivalent to saying "the Jesus."
Two versions remedied the grammar of "the LORD" with "Jehovah" (ASV, Darby), but this translation is both inaccurate and archaic. HCSB, LEB, NOG and WEB have "Yahweh," but this common English rendering of YHVH is no better than a guess. The pointing of the Hebrew name could just as easily be pronounced "Yehvah." The MSG has simply "God." It would be better to follow the translation of Messianic Jewish versions, "Adonai" (CJB) or "HaShem" (OJB). YHVH is translated in the LXX with Kurios, which generally means one in control through possession and may be rendered as lord, master or owner. See my article The Blessed Name for more discussion on this subject. The important point is that when we bless YHVH we are blessing the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel.
O my soul: Heb. nephesh has a wide range of meaning including a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, and emotion. David essentially speaks to himself through verse 5. and all: Heb. kol, whole, all or entire. The word means that nothing is left out. that is within me: Heb. qereb, inward part or midst. This word is actually plural, lit. the inward parts of me, a parallelism of nephesh. Just as God the human being is a plurality in unity. David reminds himself to bless his God with his whole being - mind, will, emotions, spirit and bodily organs.
bless: This second use of "bless" is not in the Hebrew text, but is implied. His holy: Heb. qodesh, apartness, sacredness, from the verb qadash, to be set apart or consecrated. Owens translates as "his holiness." In fact, Scripture affirms that God alone is holy. Hannah said in her praise to God, "There is no one holy like the LORD, Indeed, there is no one besides You, nor is there any rock like our God" (1 Sam 2:2). The angels in Revelation cry out ""Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy" (Rev 15:4). Holy is the way God is. To be holy He does not conform to a standard. He is that standard. He is absolutely holy with an infinite, incomprehensible fullness of purity that is incapable of being other than it is.
Because He is holy, His attributes are holy; that is, whatever we think of as belonging to God must be thought of as holy. God is holy with an absolute holiness that knows no degrees, and this He cannot impart to His creatures. But there is a relative and contingent holiness which He shares with angels and seraphim in heaven and with redeemed men on earth as their preparation for heaven. This holiness God can and does impart to His children. He shares it with them by imputation and by impartation, and because He has made it available to them through the blood of the Lamb, He requires it of them. To Israel first and later to His grafted-in believers God spoke, saying, “Be holy; for I am holy.” He did not say “Be as holy as I am holy,” for that would be to demand of us absolute holiness, something that belongs to God alone.
name: Heb. shem, a name, that is, a word or a combination of words by which a person, place, or thing is designated, called, or known; also the reputation of a particular kind given by common opinion. To know God's name is to know Him personally or to know His reputation as a faithful covenant-keeping God. The last phrase is lit. "the name of his holiness." In Jewish ritual prayers this expression is called "sanctifying the Name." Disciples of Yeshua do the same thing by praying "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name." God's name is not Father. It's Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey. God's name is holy, because he is holy.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;
Bless the LORD, O my soul: David repeats the self-command for effect. See the note on the previous verse. and forget: Heb. shakach, Qal imperfect, to forget, not so much a loss of memory as a deliberate act of ignoring the goodness of God (Anderson). God had instructed Israelites to wear tzitzit (tassels or fringes) on the corners of their garments (Num 15:39), to affix mezuzah on their doorposts and city gates (Deut 6:9, 11) and observe the sacred calendar (Ex 13:3; 20:8; Lev 23) in order to remember His commandments. Through these media the people would be continually reminded of the great things God had done for His people. none: Heb. al, an adverb of negation, not. His benefits: Heb. gemul, a dealing, recompense, benefit. The good things that come from God are too numerous to count, but David summarizes the most significant with six verbs.
3 Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases;
Who pardons: Heb. salach, Qal active participle, to pardon or forgive. God has mercy that responds to both the guilt of the offense and the penalty associated with the offense. all: Heb. kol, whole, all or entire. The word means that nothing is left out. your iniquities: Heb. avon, iniquity, guilt or punishment for iniquity. Iniquity is an abstract theological concept of crooked behavior, not simply violating a standard but perverting the standard for selfish purposes. The noun generally occurs as a collective in the Tanakh in that the individual misconduct is often associated with that of the group (e.g., Gen 15:16; Lev 16:22; Isa 53:6). The noun denotes both the deed and its consequences, although the context often lays emphasis on one aspect. In Hebraic thought the act of sin and its penalty are not radically separate (TWOT, II, 650). Most scholars believe that implicit in avon is an awareness of the culpability of the action, but this may not be true in all instances (cf. 1 Sam 20:1; 2 Sam 14:32).
There are two significant elements to the word in this context. First, it is second person, so David is speaking of himself. Second, the word is singular, not plural as translated in the majority of Bible versions. The plural rendering probably treats avon in a corporate sense of many or as a parallelism to "diseases," which is plural. A few versions translate avon simply as "iniquity" (ESV, NRSV, RSV). David could be alluding to his own experience of receiving God's pardon, but the truth may be applied to all who seek God's mercy.
In Scripture various terms are employed to convey the commission of sinful acts, but they all refer to breaking one or more commandments in God’s Torah, the Law or teaching given to Moses and affirmed by Yeshua and the apostles (Matt 15:3; Rom 3:20, 31; 4:15; 5:13, 20; 7:7f, 12; James 2:10f; 1 John 3:4). Violations of cultural customs, norms, parental expectations, rules of conduct developed by religious leaders, or someone’s personal religious convictions do not necessarily constitute sin. God gave His people the Torah, as David Stern observes, “in order to help them live a life which would be in their own best interests as well as holy and pleasing to God” (Stern 17).
Moreover, God judges mankind by this objective standard (Rom 3:20), resulting in the need of a blood sacrifice to obtain forgiveness for transgressions of the standard (Heb 9:22). Under God’s Law causation, motive or intent have no bearing on determining whether an act is a transgression. The nature or cause of a transgression only has relevance to the punishment one deserves for breaking the Torah (cf. Rom 6:23; Gal 5:21; Heb 10:29). Three levels of causation are identified in the Torah: (1) accidental, Ex 21:13, 35; Lev 4:27-35; Deut 19:4-6; (2) negligence, Ex 21:29-30, 36; 22:6; and (3) intentional, Ex 21:14; 22:1; Lev 24:19; Deut 19:11-13.
According to the Mishnah there are thirty-six transgressions for which the Torah specifies the punishment of karet, that is, being “cut off” from Israel (Ker. 1:1; cf. Ex 30:33; 31:14; Lev 7:25-27). These transgressions included murder (Lev 17:4), the prohibited sexual unions of Leviticus 18, blasphemy (Num 15:30), idolatry, necromancy (Lev 20:6), refusing circumcision (Gen 17:14), profaning Shabbat (Ex 31:14), certain violations of ritual purity laws (Lev 7:20-21, 25; Num 19:13), eating chametz (leavened product) during Pesach (Ex 12:15), not “humbling” oneself on Yom Kippur (Lev 23:29), anointing a layman with priestly oil (Ex 30:30), duplicating priestly perfume (Ex 30:38), and eating blood (Lev 17:14). (Stern 270)
The Torah provided no means of atonement or restoring fellowship for deliberate offenses. Punishment as determined by a court varied between flagellation, not to exceed forty strokes (Deut 25:2-3), and the death sentence as specifically prescribed for some of the offenses. However, the transgression must be committed defiantly (Num 15:30) or presumptuously (Deut 17:12-13) to be subject to karet. If committed unintentionally (by mistake or in ignorance), a sin offering may be brought (Lev 4:2-35; 5:15-18; 22:14; Num 15:27-29; Isa 6:5-7).
In contrast to the law of karet, the Torah does provide case examples of some who sinned intentionally, but were not cut off from Israel. Aaron facilitated the gold calf idolatry, but apparently repented upon Moses' rebuke (Ex 32:26-29). Later when Aaron and Miriam opposed Moses for taking a second wife, which God treated as a challenge to his chosen leader (Num 12:1-2), Miriam was struck with a skin disease. Aaron admitted they sinned, but acted foolishly (i.e., not wantonly). Miriam was healed, but kept outside the camp for seven days. When Moses struck the rock against God's express directions, he was punished by not being allowed to enter the Promised Land. Perhaps the most striking example is King David who committed two capital crimes. No one could ever claim to commit adultery by mistake and yet he was shown mercy upon his repentance. The grace shown to King David is the grace upon which the New Covenant operates. There is no sin that cannot be forgiven, if there is confession and repentance as 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 testifies.
Who heals: Heb. rapha, Qal active participle, to heal, to restore to health. This is the regular word for physical healing, but it also has its spiritual meaning, such as Isaiah 53:5, "by his stripes we are healed." BDB treats rapha here as figurative language for healing the hurts of the nation, involving restored favor and forgiveness (950). Occasionally it denotes the restoration of fertility (cf. Gen 20:17; 2 Kgs 2:21). all: Heb. kol, whole, all or entire. The word means that nothing is left out.
your diseases: Heb. tachaluim, diseases (always in the plural). Like "iniquity" the word is in the second person as David speaks to himself. The word is a derivative of chala, sickness or grief (TWOT, I, 284) and may suggest illness as well as suffering in general, such as it's first use in Deuteronomy 29:21 where it refers to the maladies that could result from the curses listed in the chapter (cf. Jer 14:18; 16:4 for similar uses of disease brought about by divine judgment). The word is used of a serious foot disease experienced by King Asa (2 Chron 16:12) and an unspecified disease of which King Jeroboam died (2 Chron 21:19). There is no historical narrative of David suffering a disease, but there are psalms in which he complains of bodily ailment and danger of death (Ps 6:2; 22:14-17; 30:2-3; 86:13), even making a connection between sin and his sickness (Ps 38:3; 41:4).
While many people are skeptical of divine healing the truth is that in spite of the curse of decay, God’s punishment of sin, shortened lives, and death, God heals. It is God’s nature to heal because He is the Source of life (Gen 1:27; Deut 32:39; 1 Sam 2:6; 2 Kgs 5:7; Rev 1:18) and the Sustainer of life (Gen 1:29; 9:3; Ps 104; Matt 5:45; 6:26; Rom 8:28; Heb 1:3). By asserting that God heals all diseases David merely stated a fact, because living to 70 or 80 can only be achieved by God’s power. If God withheld His healing grace we would die from the very first sickness. Thus, no physical problem gets healed without God’s help, and if God didn’t want to heal there would be no population on the earth. All healings from God demonstrate that He is a God of mercies (verse 13 below). For more discussion on this topic see my web article Divine Healing.
4 Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who redeems: Heb. ga'al, Qal active participle, to redeem or to act as a kinsman, which usually refers to the redemption of what is one's own, normally property. The original meaning of the verb is "to protect" and in Tanakh usages the emphasis is generally upon the restoration of the original relationship, and so one who performs this function is the restorer, kinsman or redeemer (go'el). God is the one who acts to restore us to him when we fail. your life: Heb. chay, alive or living in the physical sense. from the pit: Heb. shachath, a pit, either one naturally occurring or a hole dug in the earth. The word picture alludes to the practice of hunting that involved digging a pit for the animal. The Targum has "from Gehenna," but the LXX translates the word with Grk. phthora, "from destruction," i.e., a process of disintegration, deterioration, decay or ruin. The Pit occurs frequently in a figurative sense for the destruction of death or as a synonym of Sheol (Job 33:24, 28, 30; Ps 16:10; 49:10; 55:24; Isa 38:17; Ezek 28:8). David is not talking about resurrection, but healing from a near fatal illness.
Who crowns: Heb. atar, Qal active participle, to crown in the figurative sense of bestowing honor and authority. The verb is related to the noun atara, a general term for a royal or priestly crown (TWOT, II, 662). Figurative uses also include grey hair (Prov 16:31), grandchildren (Prov 17:6), a good wife (Prov 12:4), and wisdom (Prov 4:9; 14:24). you with lovingkindness: Heb. chesed, , goodness, kindness as experienced in redemption from enemies and troubles, as well as God's covenantal faithfulness. and compassion: Heb. racham, womb and then compassion. The term originally meant brotherhood, brotherly feeling, of those born from same womb. The word is actually plural and the singular translation may reflect comprehensiveness. However, the ASV, HNV, KJV, LEB, NKJV, NLT, WEB, YLT translate as "mercies." David's assertion is later echoed by Jeremiah who said God's mercies are "new every morning" (Lam 3:22-23).
5 Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.
Who satisfies: Heb. saba, Hiphil participle, to be sated, satisfied or surfeited. Only God can truly satisfy the human soul. your years: pl. of Heb. edyek, ornament, which may be a picturesque term for "soul" (Anderson). LXX translates with epithumia, "your desire," the Targum has "the days of your old age," and the Syriac has "your body." with good things: Heb. tov, good, pleasant or agreeable. The noun is actually singular. David reminds himself that as long as he has lived, God has been the source of good things.
so that youth is renewed: Heb. chadash, Hithpael imperfect, to renew or to repair. The Hithpael is an intensive reflexive form meaning "your youth renews itself." The metaphor refers to strength and vitality. We can certainly find a spiritual parallel to that reality. like the eagle: Heb. nesher, a griffon vulture or eagle. Alter interprets the metaphor to refer to the eagle's shedding its feathers and growing new ones (358). In birds, moulting is the periodic replacement of feathers by shedding old feathers while producing new ones. Feathers are dead structures at maturity, and they become gradually worn down and need to be replaced. Anderson disagrees saying that such moulting is not an exclusive characteristic of eagles or vultures. Rather, David simply refers to the strength and vitality suggested by the swiftness of the eagle's movements. Gill points out that even in old age an eagle is lively and vigorous, like the youth of another creature.
6 The LORD performs righteous deeds And judgments for all who are oppressed.
The LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. performs: Heb. asah, Qal active participle, works, to accomplish something. righteous deeds: pl. of Heb. tsedaqah, righteousness, here acts of God consistent with the standards of Torah. and judgments: pl. of Heb. mishpat, judgment or justice. The term has a broad use in the Tanakh as viewed by those who administer the justice system and by those who receive justice. Mishpat may refer to the act of deciding a case, the place of judgment, the litigation procedure before judges, the case presented for judgment, the decision for judgment, the execution of judgment or the time of judgment. Mishpat can be an attribute of character, whether of God or man, or of the outcome of a case, what would be just, right or due a victim.
for all who are oppressed: pl. of Heb. ashaq, Qal passive participle, to oppress, wrong or extort. Just as God gets the credit for all healing, so He gets the credit when victims of wrongdoing receive justice as God directed. David knew that as king part of his job description was ensuring that the justice provisions of the Torah were carried out. See my web article Biblical Justice for a discussion of what God requires. Justice is not about a party getting what he wants in a legal proceeding. Justice only occurs when God's will is done and based on this standard it's safe to say that little justice occurs in modern courts.
7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel.
He made known: Heb. yada, Hiphal imperfect, to know, referring to both direct revelation and insight deduced from experience. His ways: Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense, or way or manner in a figurative sense. to Moses: Heb. Mosheh (LXX Mōusês) is most likely derived from Egyptian mes meaning "child" or "son" (BDB 602), since the daughter of Pharaoh named him (Ex 2:10). She explained the chosen name by saying, "Because I drew [Heb. mashah, "to draw"] him out of the water." Moses was the great Hebrew leader, prophet and lawgiver of Israel. Moses was a Levite, the son of Amram and Jochebed, who was Amram's aunt (Ex 6:20). He had two wives, Zipporah (Ex 2:21; 18:2) and a Cushite woman (Num 12:1), and two sons of Zipporah, one named Gershom and the other named Eliezer (Ex 18:3-4). Moses was the leader of the Israelites in their deliverance from Egyptian slavery and oppression and their journey through the wilderness.
At Mount Sinai Moses served as mediator to facilitate the beginning of the covenant relationship between God and Israel. Forty years later on the plains of Moab Moses renewed the covenant with Israel and made preparations for their entry into the promised land. Moses compiled, wrote and/or edited the five books attributed to his name (Ex 24:4; Deut 31:9; Mark 12:19; Luke 24:27, 44; Acts 15:21; Rom 10:5) and left Israel with the rich legacy of God's Word. He was a heroic leader of the people and as a devout man of God. His story is found in the extensive narratives from Exodus 1:1 through Deuteronomy 34:1. Moses was a giant of a man. Moses died at the age of 120 and God buried him in the land of Moab (Deut 34:5-7).
His acts: pl. of Heb. alilah, a deed or practice. to the sons of Israel: Heb. Yisrael, (LXX Israêl), which means “God prevails” (BDB 975). The idiom “sons of Israel” means blood descendants of Jacob through his twelve sons. This clause is a parallelism to the opening clause and no doubt refers to God's miraculous intervention in Egypt, during the wilderness years and succeeding generations down to David's time. The name "Israel" was given to Jacob (Heb. Ya'akov; Grk. Iakobos) by God (Gen 32:28; 49:2). He was the son of Isaac and Rebekah, younger twin brother of Esau. Jacob had had four wives, Leah and Rachel (Gen 25:21-26; 29:21-30), Bilhah (Gen 30:4) and Zilpah (Gen 30:9), twelve sons and at least two daughters. The Tanakh knows only one Jacob.
The meaning of Jacob's name, "heel-catcher," does not mean "he cheats" (HBD), but simply supplants. The name had no pejorative connotation when first given by Isaac to his son. As indicated by Hosea 12:3, "heel-catcher" illustrated the strength and power he had with God. It was God's intention that Jacob supplant his older brother Esau. (For more on the background of the name and the first "Jacob" see my web article In Defense of Jacob.) God reiterated the Abrahamic covenant with Isaac's son Jacob (Gen 28:10-22; 35:9-12), affirming the same promises and specifying that the Messianic line would not go through Esau. The covenant with Jacob introduced something new: God promised that from him would come a nation and an assembly of nations (Gen 35:11).
8 The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
The LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. David proceeds to list four attributes of God. is compassionate: Heb. rachum, adj., compassionate or merciful. The word only occurs 12 times in the Tanakh, half of which are in the Psalms. The word picture is that of the feeling a mother has for her child. and gracious: Heb. channun, adj., gracious, only used as an attribute of God, as hearing the cry of the vexed debtor. slow: Heb. erek, adj., long, patient. God is not precipitous in action. to anger: Heb. aph, a nostril, nose, face, anger. For humans the emotion is revealed by change in facial expression. The implied anthropomorphism spells unrelieved trouble if God does not have mercy on his errant servants. and abounding: Heb. rav, adj., much, many or great. God has an abundance of this attribute. in lovingkindness: Heb. chesed. See the note on verse 3 above. What a great God!!
9 He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever.
He will not always: Heb. netsach, eminence, enduring, everlastingness, perpetuity, for ever. strive with us: Heb. riv ("reev"), Qal imperfect, to strive or contend, especially in a legal case or suit. There may be an allusion to the saying in Genesis 6:3, "My Spirit shall not always strive [Heb. din, to judge] with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." Before the global deluge God gave man 120 years to remedy the societal evils and 120 years for Noah to preach righteousness and repentance (cf. Heb 11:7; 1 Pet 3:20; 2 Pet 2:5). The parallel nature of the two verbs in Genesis and here is illustrated by the translation of the LXX. For din in Genesis 6:3 the LXX uses katamenō, to remain, and for riv in this verse the LXX uses menō, to stay, abide or remain. nor will He keep His anger: Heb. natar, Qal imperfect, to keep or maintain, in this instance wrath. forever: Heb. olam, long duration, antiquity or futurity. There is a limit to God's patience.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
He has not dealt with us: Heb. asah, Qal perfect, to do, make or accomplish. Owens translates the verb as present tense but the perfect tense refers to completed action. David is thinking of God's behavior in the past. according to our sins: Heb. chet, sin, a violation of the admonitions or prohibitions of Torah that wrong another person or offend the holiness of God. Chet may also refer to the guilt and the punishment incurred by the offense. In ancient Israel sin was tantamount to rejecting God’s covenant. The LXX renders chet with Grk. hamartia, which also refers to the action itself, as well as its result, every departure from the way of righteousness, both human and divine. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh.
In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss, to miss the mark, to lose, not share in something, be mistaken. In practice hamartia could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking (DNTT, III, 577). For Greeks the remedy for man's failures was education. Unfortunately the Greek cultural definition has influenced many Christians to adopt a "sinning every day in thought, word and deed" viewpoint. However, the choice by LXX translators to use hamartia was not based on agreement with Greek philosophy. Rather the Jewish translators infused new meaning into hamartia giving it a moral quality the Greeks did not recognize. For the Jews the "mark" was the Torah, God's revealed Word, not a community or family norm.
The usage of chet and hamartia in the Bible in no way incorporate the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, but behavior that violates the clear instructions of God. The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior, only whether the express requirements or prohibitions of Torah commandments have been violated. Religious people may erect their own codes for determining sinful behavior, but God's judgment is based strictly on the commandments He gave to mankind as recorded in Scripture. If someone calls a certain behavior "sin," then it is reasonable to expect the pronouncement to be backed up by Scripture. Otherwise, it is strictly personal opinion.
nor rewarded us: Heb. gamal, Qal perfect, to deal fully or adequately with, deal out to, wean, ripen. Here the verb means recompense, repay, or requite, in a bad sense. according to our iniquities: Heb. avon, iniquity, guilt or punishment for iniquity. See the note on verse 3 above.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
For as high: Heb. gabahh. BDB describes the word as a verb, Qal perfect, be high or lofty (471). Owens says the word is used as an adjective. Alter points out that this vertical simile of vast distance is neatly complemented in the next verse by a horizontal simile of distance (359). as the heavens: Heb. shamayim, a plural noun meaning heaven or sky. There is no definite article so it could be "as heaven." In the LXX ouranos translates the Hebrew word (DNTT, II, 191). The plural form of “heaven” is thought to signify completeness. The Hebrew and Greek words for “heaven” are used in Scripture of three different places (Ps 148:1-4).
· The first usage in the Bible is Genesis 1:1 where hashamayim, “the heavens” is mentioned in contrast to the earth. “The heavens,” or interstellar space, is the name given the expanse stretched out from the initial watery black hole (Gen 1:6-8) and then populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation to give light to the earth. Astronomers have estimated there are 1025 (10 million billion billion) stars in the universe, but the number of visible stars that may be seen without the aid of a telescope is about four thousand (BBMS 156).
· The second use of heaven refers to the atmosphere or “face” of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; 1 Kgs 21:24; Rev 19:17) and from which comes rain, snow, dew, lightning and thunder (Gen 8:2; Deut 11:11; 33:13; Job 38:29; 1 Sam 2:10; 2 Kgs 1:10; Isa 55:10; Matt 6:26).
· Finally, the third heaven is the location of the throne of God the Father (1 Kgs 8:30; 2 Chron 30:27; Job 16:19; Ps 2:4; 11:4; Matt 6:9; 2 Cor 12:2-4), the residence for a host of angels (Gen 21:17; 28:12; Ps 148:2; Dan 4:23; 7:10; Matt 18:10; 22:30; Luke 2:15; Heb 12:22; Rev 5:11), and the place where Yeshua sits at the right hand of God (Mark 16:19; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20; Col 3:1; Heb 1:3; 8:1; 12:2).
Scripture repeatedly affirms that God created all the heavenly bodies, and even the blackness with which they are clothed (Isa 50:3). are above: Heb. al, preposition, upon, above or over. David describes the location of the heavens from the point of view of an observer on earth. In Scripture heaven is always "up." the earth: Heb. erets, the earth in a cosmological sense, or “the land” in the sense of a specific territorial area, primarily the Land of Israel (TWOT §167). In this context, the Land of Israel works just as well as planet earth.
What David meant by "height" is not clear, other than the natural observation of the starry sky viewed at night. David could not know that the Sun is 93 million miles away and the nearest star to our Solar System is measured at four light-years distant (BBMS 175). A light year is the distance light travels in a year, moving at a speed of over 186,000 miles per second. While astronomers typically define distance of the stars in billions of light years, the reality is that astronomic distances greater than three hundred light years cannot be measured at all by direct geometric methods (BBMS 173, 176). While evolutionistic scientists posit an old and infinite universe in order to rebut special and recent creation by God, Scripture affirms that the whole universe was created fully functioning right from the start and the heavenly lights were performing their function as signs and as markers for seasons and God's calendar (Gen 1:14).
There is another important biblical and scientific fact that has a bearing on understanding David’s description of height. In the beginning when God created the cosmos, He began by creating a ball of water called "the deep" (Gen 1:2; a watery black hole), and from that point God “stretched” out an expanse He called hashamayim, "the heavens" (Gen 1:2-8; cf. Job 37:18; Ps 104:2; Isa 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jer 10:12; 51:15). Moreover, this stretching continued past creation and is apparently still going on. (Note the present tense of Job 9:8; 26:7; Ps 144:5; Isa 40:22; Zech 12:1.) Scripture also indicates that the heavens can be torn (Isa 64:1), worn out (Ps 102:26), shaken (Hag 2:6; Isa 13:13; Heb 12:26), burnt up (2 Pet 3:12), and rolled up (Isa 34:4; Heb 1:12). This means that “interstellar space” is not just an empty nothing, but is a real something (Humphreys 67f).
Modern astronomers generally believe that distant galaxies are all receding from our galaxy – or, that all galaxies are receding from each other. The evidence cited for such expansion is the Doppler Effect, the “red shift” in the light spectra from distant galaxies (BBMS 171). A source of light that is moving toward us will emit light waves with a shorter wavelength than will a light source moving away from us. In the first case, this would make the light bluer, in the second, redder, than the light spectrum from a stationary source. Scripture seems to indicate that it is space itself that is being expanded or stretched out rather than the galaxies moving through unbounded nothingness.
So great is: Heb. gabar, Qal perfect, to be strong or mighty and thus able to prevail. His lovingkindness: Heb. chesed, favor, kindness. The LXX translates the word with eleos, "mercy." The characteristic is an evidence of God's love toward those who love Him and keep His commandments (Ex 20:6; Ps 25:10). Motivated by chesed God not only loves but forgives (Ex 34:6-7; Num 14:18-19; Neh 9:17; Ps 86:15; 145:8) and thus the trait may be translated as "lovingkindness" or "steadfast love." God's chesed also prompts Him to remember His covenant with Israel and David (Deut 7:9, 12; 1 Kgs 8:23; 2 Chron 6:14; Neh 1:5; 9:32; Ps 89:1-4, 28; 106:45; Isa 54:10; Dan 9:4).
toward those fear Him: The idiomatic expression refers to those who hate evil (Prov 8:13) and live by God's commandments. David makes a natural comparison of the heavens to the God of Israel. The heavens reveal God's character, His righteousness, glory and lovingkindness (Ps 19:1-2; 50:6; 57:10-11; 71:19; 85:11; 97:6) and is even used as a circumlocution for God (Job 20:27; Isa 1:2). In the first century "heaven" was a substitute for the Name of God as evidenced by the use of "kingdom of heaven" 31 times in the Gospel of Matthew. The same contrast is found in Isaiah 55:9, ""For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts."
David states a fact of God's covenantal loyalty that is echoed at length in Jeremiah:
"19 The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 20 “Thus says the LORD, ‘If you can break My covenant for the day and My covenant for the night, so that day and night will not be at their appointed time, 21 then My covenant may also be broken with David My servant so that he will not have a son to reign on his throne, and with the Levitical priests, My ministers. 22 As the host of heaven cannot be counted and the sand of the sea cannot be measured, so I will multiply the descendants of David My servant and the Levites who minister to Me.’” 23 And the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, 24 “Have you not observed what this people have spoken, saying, ‘The two families which the LORD chose, He has rejected them’? Thus they despise My people, no longer are they as a nation in their sight. 25 Thus says the LORD, ‘If My covenant for day and night stand not, and the fixed patterns of heaven and earth I have not established, 26 then I would reject the descendants of Jacob and David My servant, not taking from his descendants rulers over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. But I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.’” (Jer 33:19-26)
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As far as: Heb. rachaq, Qal infinitive, to be or become far or distant. as the east: Heb. mizrach, the place of the sun's rising, the east. is from the west: Heb. ma'arav, the place of the sun's setting, the west. The horizontal analogy draws on the distance from horizon to horizon. Due to the curvature of the earth that distance varies depending on how high off the ground the observer is standing. At ground level, assuming no obstructions, that distance in either direction for a person of average height (5 ft. 7 in.) is about 3 miles. David, of course, is not speaking in literal terms, but figuratively. If you go in either direction you will never find the other direction because your horizon continually shifts. Another way of interpreting the observational data is "as far as the sun is from the earth,"
So far has He removed: Heb. rachaq, Hiphal perfect. The verb does not mean "remove" in the sense of cleansing. The verb simply suggests distance. our transgressions: pl. of Heb. pesha, transgression, offenses generally committed against individuals. This verse describes the removal of the effects of the rebellion and God's complete forgiveness (Anderson). from us: Heb. min, prep., from. David switches from second person in the first part of the psalm to first person plural.
13 Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.
Just as a father: Heb. av (LXX patêr), which may refer to one’s immediate biological parent, a biological and spiritual ancestor, such as Abraham and Jacob as the fathers of the Jewish people (Isa 51:12; John 4:12) or a spiritual guide and mentor as Elisha called Elijah “father” (2 Kgs 2:12). Apart from comparisons with an earthly father as here (Deut 1:31; 8:5; Prov 3:12), the word father is used of God only 15 times in the Tanakh and only in connection with his relationship to Israel (Deut 32:6; Isa 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; Mal 1:6; 2:10) or to the king of Israel (2 Sam 7:14; 1 Chron 17:13; Ps 89:26). God is not Father to the world.
has compassion: Heb. racham, Piel infinitive, to love, have compassion. Owens translates as "pities." on his children: pl. of Heb. ben, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by more remote ancestry. The Hebrew word is used in three distinctive ways: (1) to identify direct paternity, as the son of his father (Gen 5); (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor (e.g., Gen 32:32); or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of (e.g., Ps 89:22; Dan 3:25). According to Scripture all Israelites are sons of God (Isa 43:6; Hos 1:10; cf. Matt 17:25-26; 2 Cor 6:18), because Israel is collectively the son of God (Ex 4:22). The plural form may refer to all the offspring of a father and members of a household, which applies here.
So the LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. has compassion: Heb. racham, Piel perfect. There is an implied contrast between God and the earthly father. David uses the infinitive form, a verbal noun, to describe the human father, simply as a grammatical contrast. For God he uses the perfect form, which denotes completed action, in the sense of the beginning, continuing, and concluding, of an action. God has compassion as a good earthly father, but His compassion is much greater. on those who fear Him: Heb. ya'rê, Qal active participle, to fear, reverence or honor. David statement may seem a contrast to the state in John 3:16 that God loves the world, but the two axioms are not mutually exclusive.
14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.
For He Himself knows: Heb. yada, Qal perfect, to know. The verb is often used for an intimate connection, such as between a husband and wife. our frame: Heb. yetser, a form, framing or purpose. The term may refer to the physical nature, but also the spiritual nature, such as Genesis 6:5 where it first occurs to mean the wicked inclination or impulse of the heart. In Genesis 2:7, the Bible states that God formed (Heb. vayyitser) man. The spelling of this word is unusual: it uses two consecutive "Yods" instead of one that might be expected. The rabbis inferred that these Yods stand for the word yetser, and the presence of two Yods in the word indicates that humanity was formed with two impulses: a good impulse (yetser tov) and an evil impulse (yetser ra) (Ber. 61a).
The yetser tov is the moral conscience, the inner voice that reminds you of God's law when you consider doing something that is forbidden. For Jews the yetser ra is not a desire to do evil as conceived in the Christian doctrine of inherited depravity. Rather, it is usually conceived as the selfish nature, the desire to satisfy personal needs (food, shelter, sex, etc.) without regard for pleasing God or considering the moral consequences of fulfilling those desires. Paul uses the term "flesh" in Romans 8 with the same meaning. God not only knows our physical weaknesses and limitation, but He also knows the inclinations of our hearts.
He is mindful: Heb. zakar, Qal passive participle, to remember. that we are but dust: Heb. aphar, dry earth, dust. The idiom alludes to the fact of the original creation of Adam, who was formed from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7; 3:19). The grammatical construct of the verse makes it a continuation of the thought in verse 13 in which God is compared to a good human father. Parents know the natures of their children, their capabilities and their weaknesses.
15 As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
As for man, his days: pl. of Heb. yom, day or daylight. Yom is generally used in Scripture as a specific division of time denoting the daytime portion of a 24-hour day (Gen 1:5) or a complete solar/lunar cycle of 24 hours (Ex 2:13). When used in the plural yom can refer to a year (1 Sam 27:7), many years (Gen 18:11) or the extent of a person's life (Gen 5:8). The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time. The general statement may allude to Moses' summation of a man's life as 70 or 80 years (Ps 90:10). are like grass: Heb. chatsir, green grass, herbage, generally as food for animals. as a flower: Heb. tsiyts, a blossom or flower. of the field: Heb. sadeh, field or land, usually pertaining to cultivated land, but also open country outside of cities. so he flourishes: Heb. tsoots, Qal imperfect, to bloom or blossom. The flowers beautify the fields for a time.
16 When the wind has passed over it, it is no more, And its place acknowledges it no longer.
When the wind: Heb. ruach, breath, wind or spirit. The term is principally used in the Tanakh for (1) breath of mouth or nostrils; (2) wind; (3) spirit of the living, breathing being, dwelling in men and animals; (4) spirit, as seat of emotion, intellect, and the will; (5) spirit, as of moral character; (6) spirit, as a disembodied being apart from God; and (7) the Spirit of God, who as a person represents the divine presence in an omnipresent sense. Here the term is applied first to the winds of the air that are in constant movement and circumnavigate the globe.
has passed over it: Heb. abar, Qal perfect, to pass over, through or by, here in the sense of traversing space. it is no more: Heb. ayin, nothing, not; lit. "it is not" or "has vanished." and its place: Heb. maqom, a standing place or simply place. acknowledges it: Heb. nakar, Hiphal imperfect, to regard, to recognize; here to be gone and forgotten. no longer: Heb. lo, not. Once the wind has taken the flower, its position in the field is lost forever. The environmental description also applies to the death of man. The word picture suggests that the Wind of God, or the Spirit, passes by man's spirit and takes it with Him back to God. And, the reality is that the dead are quickly forgotten, because life moves on.
17 But the lovingkindness of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children's children,
But the lovingkindness: Heb. chesed. See the note on verse 4 above. is from everlasting to everlasting: Heb. olam, here used of "time" before creation to after the consummation of all things. God is eternal and thus His attributes have always been manifest. on those who fear Him: Heb. Heb. ya'rê, Qal active participle. See the note on verse 13 above. and His righteousness: Heb. tsedaqah. See the note on verse 6 above. There is no conflict between tsedaqah and chesed, as declared in Psalm 85:10, "lovingkindness [chesed] and truth have met together; righteousness [tsedeq] and peace have kissed each other." to children's: Heb. pl. of Heb. ben. children: pl. of Heb. ben. See the note on verse 13 above. The phrase is lit. "son's sons," although the range of application is likely more than the immediate offspring.
The second part of the proposition may be a simple parallelism, restating the first clause in more immediate and personal terms. The declaration could also allude in the reverse to the Torah promise of Exodus 20:5-6, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments." David could be contrasting the two activities, putting the emphasis on the positive first, then reminds that God's righteousness will not overlook the unrighteousness that is passed on from one generation to the next.
18 To those who keep His covenant And remember His precepts to do them.
To those who keep: Heb. shamar, Qal active participle, to keep, watch or preserve, lit. "the ones keeping." The verb not only means performing, but guarding as a watchman and preserving for one's heirs. His covenant: Heb. b'rit, covenant, is used in the Hebrew Bible to describe two very different relationships. The first major usage is of a pact, treaty, or alliance between men (e.g., Gen 14:13; 21:22; 31:44), as well as between a monarch and subjects (2 Sam 3:12; 5:3). The second major usage of b'rit is of the covenants between God and man, specifically Most frequently b'rit is used of a covenant between God and individual men, specifically Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Israel, Aaron and David, and the nation of Israel. Each of these covenants include both divine promises and expectations of the recipients. The covenant God made with Israel functioned like a constitution. See my web article The Covenants of God.
And remember: Heb. zakar, Qal active participle, remember, recall or call to mind. In this context the verb carries the sense of doing. His precepts: pl. of Heb. piqqud, precept, something appointed or charged in the sense of a divine expectation. The term occurs primarily in the Psalms (19:9; 111:7; 119:4, 15, 45, 128) as a synonym for Torah. to do them: Heb. asah, Qal infinitive, to do or to make, here of doing God's commands.
19 The LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.
The LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. has established: Heb. kun, Hiphal perfect, to make firm, set up or establish. His throne: Heb. kisse, seat of honor, throne upon which a king or high priest sits. It's also figurative of royal dignity, authority, and power. in the heavens: Heb. shamayim. See the note on verse 11 above. Here David refers specifically to the third heaven where God has His throne. And His sovereignty: Heb. malkuth, royalty, royal power, reign, kingdom. rules: Heb. mashal, Qal perfect, to rule, have dominion or reign. over all: God rules the universe and all that it contains.
20 Bless the LORD, you His angels, Mighty in strength, who perform His word, Obeying the voice of His word!
Bless: Heb. barak, Piel imperative. For the verbal command see the note on verse 1 above. the LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. you His angels: pl. of Heb. malak, messenger, whether human or heavenly. In the Tanakh the term is used of one sent with a message (Gen 32:4), a prophet (Isa 42:19), a priest (Mal 2:7) or a supra-natural messenger of God (Gen 19:1). The LXX renders malak with aggelos. The decision to translate malak as "angel" or simply "messenger" relies primarily on the context. Angels figure prominently in Scripture as ministering spirits (Mark 1:13; Heb 1:14) and are far different from the Hollywood depiction and popular assumptions about angels.
Angels are not glorified humans that earn status in heaven by doing good works on earth. All individual angels mentioned in Scripture have masculine names or descriptions, contrary to popular art and media, which sometimes depicts them as female. In addition, only a special group of heavenly beings are mentioned in Scripture as having wings (Gen 3:24; Ex 37:9; Isa 6:2; Ezek 10:5; Rev 4:8), and those beings may not be angels at all. (The mention of an angel in Revelation 14:6 as flying does not mean that the angel had wings.) The descriptive title "Angel of the LORD" in the Tanakh does not refer to an ordinary angel, but a direct spokesman of YHVH, perhaps a pre-incarnate visitation of the Son of God (cf. Gen 16:10; 18:1-3, 13, 17-22; Judg 2:1).
mighty: Heb. gibbor, adj., strong or mighty; also valiant. in strength: Heb. koach, strength or power, usually in a physical sense. Angels know their capabilities and fearlessly use their skills on behalf of God. who perform: Heb. asah, Qal active participle, to do or make. The verb emphasizes both the ability to perform an action and the result of such action. His word: Heb. dabar, speech or word. The term has a wide variety of usage in the Tanakh for oral, as well as written, communication: (1) a word, as in vocabulary, (2) a singular speech, discourse, saying, word, as the sum of that which is spoken, (3) a saying, utterance, sentence, as a section of a discourse, (4) advice or counsel, (5) a matter, affair, thing about which one speaks, and (6) the word of God, as a divine communication in the form of commandments, prophecy, and words of help to His people.
obeying: Heb. shama, Qal infinitive, to hear, the capacity for perceiving by the organ of the ear. Owens has "hearkening." In Hebrew writing action is often depicted in reference to a part of the body. Thus, "to hear" is idiomatic of "to obey." the voice: Heb. qol, sound or voice, generally of what is emitted from the organ of the mouth, but also of the sounds caused by all things in creation. Here the term infers that God has the capacity for oral communication. of His word: Heb. dabar. The redundancy emphasizes that what the angels hear they heed.
21 Bless the LORD, all you His hosts, You who serve Him, doing His will.
Bless: Heb. barak, Piel imperative. For the verbal command see the note on verse 1 above. the LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. all you His hosts: pl. of Heb. tsaba, army, war or warfare. Here the term refers to an organized body of angels. You who serve Him: Heb. sharath, Piel participle, to minister or serve, but not in a menial sense. The verb usually occurs in the context of Levitical and priestly service in the tabernacle or temple, but also of providing service to the king or God. Here the verb indicates the availability of the angels to do God's bidding. doing: Heb. asah, Qal active participle. The participle helps define the character of angels. His will: Heb. ratson, goodwill, favor, acceptance, or will. Here the term means will, desire or pleasure. The angels only do what pleases God and in the broad sense aid Him in carrying out His sovereign will. For more on this subject see my web article The Will of God.
22 Bless the LORD, all you works of His, In all places of His dominion; Bless the LORD, O my soul!
Bless: Heb. barak, Piel imperative. For the verbal command see the note on verse 1 above. the LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. all: Heb. kol, the whole or all, a collective term that does not leave any out. you works of His: Heb. ma'aseh, a work or deed, here referring to all the works of creation. in all places: Heb. kol. The use of "places" is an interpretative emphasis. of His dominion: Heb. memshalah, rule, dominion, realm, especially in the sense of God's rule over the heavenly bodies (Gen 1:16; Ps 136:8-9). Bless the LORD, O my soul: See the note on the first verse. David ends the psalm as he began, a reminder to himself to keep on praising His God.
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