Notes on Psalm 139

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Published 12 August 2013; Revised 16 October 2013

Introduction | Psalm 1 | 2 | 19 | 23 | 27 | 37 | 90 | 91 | 103


Scripture: The Scripture text of this Psalm is taken from the NASB Updated Edition (1995). Other versions may be quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the psalm. References to the Mishnah and Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Quotations from the Targums are taken from Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation (2001).

Syntax: Unless otherwise indicated the meaning of Hebrew words is taken from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (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 (1957).

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebrew 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: 139 in the MT; 138 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.


"For the choir director. A psalm of David." The Hebrew is lit. "of the musician of David," verse 1 in the MT. The Targum has "For praise, composed by David, a psalm" (Cook). The Syriac has: "By David in his old age" (Gill). The LXX has: "A Psalm by David to the director," although the ABP translates as "A Psalm to David" and NETS has "Regarding completion. Pertaining to David. A Psalm." 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.

Most Christian scholars inexplicably discount Davidic authorship (so Anderson, Broyles, Clarke, Coke, Delitzsch, and Faussett), generally on the account of supposed Aramaic words present in the text (verses 2, 3, 7, 9, 17, 19, 20). However, Barnes, Coffman, Gill, Henry, Kidner, Morris and Spurgeon are strongly in favor of David as the author. Indeed, there is no good reason to reject the attribution by the Jewish editor. Spurgeon criticizes the faulty logic by saying, "We believe that upon the principles of criticism now in vogue it would be extremely easy to prove that Milton did not write Paradise Lost."

Aramaic, like Hebrew, is a Semitic language (think descendants of Shem son of Noah) and originated with the Arameans in Aram (cf. Gen 31:47), the forerunners of the Syrians. In fact, the LXX translates Aramit with Suristi (or Syristi), "Syrian." The Hebrew word for Aramaic, Aramit, occurs four times in the Tanakh (2 Kgs 18:26; Ezra 4:7; Isa 36:11; Dan 2:4). Aramaic became an international language with the great empires of the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. Biblical Aramaic uses the same alphabet and block lettering as Hebrew. Less than 1% of the Tanakh is written in Aramaic (Ezra 4:8–6:18; 7:12-26; Dan 2:4-7:28). Outside the books of Ezra and Daniel the supposed presence of Aramaic words in Hebrew passages must be demonstrated, because Aramaic and Hebrew have many vocabulary words in common, although generally with slightly different spelling.

Travel and trade between cultures naturally resulted in "foreign" words being assimilated. The scholarly term for an Aramaic word in Hebrew is "loanword." The same borrowing of words has occurred with English. The words "pork" and "beef," so very English, originally came from French. Yet no one in America using those words would be thought to be speaking French. Interaction between Aram and Israel has a long history. Rebekah, the wife of Isaac, was an Aramean (Gen 25:20), as were the wives of Jacob (Gen 28:6). David certainly had contact with Aram, since he subdued the people during his reign (2 Sam 8:12) and his son Absalom lived in Aram for a time (2 Sam 15:8). So, David's authorship should not be questioned merely on the usage of some Aramaic words.

Type: Hymn of Thanksgiving

Usage in the Besekh: None.

Literary Character

The psalm has 24 verses, which divide evenly into four stanzas of six verses each (Morris 90).

· Stanza 1, Adonai's Omniscience (1-6)

· Stanza 2, Adonai's Omnipresence (7-12)

· Stanza 3, Adonai's Omnipotence (13-18)

· Stanza 4, Adonai's Omnipurity (19-24)

The psalm is written as a prayer of direct communication from David to the God of Israel. He uses the first person pronouns ("I" "me") no less than 48 times. In addressing God he uses the second person 28 times, and he cries "O Lord" three times and "O God" three times.

Historical Setting

Gill offers this historical analysis of the setting: "This psalm was written by David, when he lay under the reproach and calumnies of men, who laid false things to his charge; things he was not conscious of either in the time of Saul's persecution of him, or when his son Absalom rebelled against him: and herein he appeals to the heart searching and rein trying God for his innocence; and, when settled on his throne, delivered it to the master of music, to make use of it on proper occasions. According to the Syriac title of the psalm, the occasion of it was Shimei, the son of Gera, reproaching and cursing him as a bloody man (2 Sam 16:5)."


(1) For the choir director. A psalm of David.

For the choir director: Heb natsach, Piel participle, preeminent or enduring. In psalm titles the verb means to act as overseer, superintendent, or director. Owens has "to the choirmaster" and Alter has "For the lead player." The LXX translates the verb with eis to telos, lit. "to the end" and could mean idiomatically "through all eternity" (BAG 819). A psalm: Heb. mizmor, a melody, a term associated with 57 psalms (TWOT, I, 245). Mizmor is a technical musical term implying a composition meant to be sung with instrumental accompaniment.

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 capital 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 O LORD, You have searched me and known me.

Targum: For praise, composed by David, a psalm. O Lord, you have searched me out and known me.

O: There is no "O" in Hebrew, but the grammatical structure of the sentence indicates that God is being addressed. Many Bible versions omit the exclamation, but others include it as a stylistic choice. LORD: Heb. YHVH (Yod-Hey-Vav-Hey), the tetragrammaton of the God of Israel, referred to in Judaism as either Adonai (CJB) or Hashem (OJB, "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.

You have searched me: Heb. chaqar, Qal perfect, to search in the sense of examining thoroughly. and known me: Heb. yada, Qal imperfect, to know. The verb has a range of meaning: (1) learn to know any subject, (2) to perceive, discriminate, or distinguish (3) to know by experience, (4) to know a person, be acquainted with, (5) know a person sexually, (6) know how to do a thing, be able to do it, and (7) to have knowledge, be wise. The verb refers to a personal, even intimate knowledge, of something. God's knowledge of man is thorough, as John says of Yeshua, "He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man" (John 2:25). David had a personal awareness of God's knowledge of him, not just his existence, but the man inside, his hopes, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge God has of every person on planet earth.

2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar.

Targum: It is manifest before you when I sit down to study the Torah, and when I rise up to go to war; you understand my fellowship in your congregation from a people afar off.

David continues to add superlatives to describe the nature of God's omniscience. You know: Heb. yada, Qal perfect. See the previous verse. when I sit down: Heb. yashav, Qal infinitive, to sit, remain or dwell. and when I rise up: Heb. qum, Qal infinitive, to arise, standup or stand. The opening phrase is lit. "you know my sitting and standing." The Targum interprets the actions as to "sit down to study the Torah" and "rise up to go to war." The contrast may only mean "to sit" in the sense of resting or eating and "to stand" in the sense of readiness for work.

You understand: Heb. bin, Qal perfect, to perceive or discern. my thought: Heb. rea, purpose or aim. The word occurs only in this psalm (also in verse 17). Clarke claims the word is Aramaic based on Daniel 2:29-30, but BDB identifies rea as Hebrew (946). According to BDB the Aramaic word in Daniel 2:29-30 (also Dan 7:28) is rayon, "thought." Similarity does not constitute dependence nor prove a late date for the Psalm. from afar: Heb. rachoq, distant, far, a distance. BDB understands the word to be figurative of time, "long ago." However, the word could easily have a spatial meaning. Although the throne of God is in the third heaven, an incredible distance from earth, nevertheless God knows my thoughts from there. Not only does God know what we do, but what we think. Yeshua reminded his disciples, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matt 6:8 TLV).

3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

Targum: Now when I walk in the road or when I recline to study the Torah, you have become a stranger; and you have made all my ways dangerous. (Cook)

You scrutinize: Heb. zarah, Piel perfect, to scatter, fan or winnow, i.e., to spread out that which has been threshed and expose it to the current of the wind. The idiomatic expression means to investigate and search out to the very bottom. (Delitzsch 809). my path: Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense, or way or manner in a figurative sense. and my lying down: Heb. reba, Qal infinitive, lying down for the purpose of sleep. The verb is related to Heb. raba, to stretch out, which originates from an Aramaic loanword (BDB 918). BDB indicates that in late Hebrew the verb took on the meaning of copulation. And are intimately acquainted: Heb. sakan, Hiphal perfect, to be of use or service, benefit. with all my ways: Heb. derek, a parallelism of the opening phrase. The second clause may suggest that since God knows what is ahead He is of service by removing obstacles and pitfalls (Morris).

4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all.

Targum: And when there is no speech on my tongue [of deceit], behold, O Lord, you know the thought of my heart completely [my whole body].

Even before there is a word: Heb. millah, a word, speech, or utterance. The word occurs 37 times in the Tanakh, predominately in Job, but also Psalms and Proverbs. The same word is also common in Aramaic, but there's no indication of either being a loanword (BDB 576 ). on my tongue: Heb. lashon, the movable organ in the bottom of the mouth used for tasting, eating and speaking, here as the organ of speech. Behold: Heb. hên, a demonstrative adverb or interjection, lo or behold. O LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above.

You know: Heb. yada, Qal perfect. See the note on verse 1 above. it all. The fact of God's omniscience is first mentioned in Genesis 6:5, "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." The same ability to know the thoughts of people is also attributed to Yeshua (Matt 9:4; 10:34; 12:25; Luke 6:8; 11:17). The fact that God knows our thoughts before they become words should cause the admonition of Yeshua to be taken seriously: "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:36-37).

5 You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me.

Targum: From behind me and in front of me you have confined me, and you have inflicted on me the blow of your hand.

You have enclosed me: Heb. tsur, Qal perfect, to confine, bind or besiege. Here the meaning is to "enclose" in the sense of protection. behind: Heb. achor, the hind side or back part. and before: Heb. qedem, front, east or aforetime. Here the word is a contrast to "behind," thus emphasizing the front. David feels surrounded by God's presence. and laid: Heb. shith, Qal imperfect, to put or set. Your hand: Heb. kaph, hollow or flat of the hand, palm. upon me: The anthropomorphism indicates God's personal involvement in David's life, although in the person of Yeshua God has a literal hand.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Targum: It is hidden from my knowing [too wonderful for my knowledge]; it is too mighty [exalted], I am not capable of it.

Such knowledge: Heb. da'ath, knowledge, understanding, discernment, wisdom; here used of the knowledge of God. is too wonderful: Heb. pili, adj., wonderful, incomprehensible. The word occurs only twice in the Tanakh; also in Judges 13:18 spoken by the angel who refused to disclose his name. The word has a functional meaning of "secret" (so Strong's Concordance). for me; it is too high: Heb. sagab, Niphal perfect, to be inexpressibly high or unattainable. I cannot attain to it: Heb. yakol, Qal imperfect, to be able, to have power. BDB suggests that the knowledge is so high that it cannot be reached (407). David could be alluding to a private revelation that he was forbidden to disclose (cf. Dan 12:4; 2 Cor 12:4; Rev 10:4). In other words, "I am not capable of explaining it if I were permitted to do so."

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?

Targum: Where will I go from the presence of your storm-wind? And where shall I flee from your presence?

Where: Heb. an, adverbial interrogative, where or whither. can I go: Heb. halak, Qal imperfect, to go, come or walk. The verb, occurring over a thousand times in the Tanakh, also occurs in Aramaic, but there is no evidence of the word being a loanword. The rhetorical question alludes to traveling. from Your Spirit: 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. The Ruach is active in inspiring prophecy and instruction, imparting military, executive and administrative powers, and endowing men with various gifts and skills.

The first time the Ruach appears in Scripture is Genesis 1:2 where He is moving over the surface of "the deep." In the LXX ruach is rendered with pneuma, which has similar meanings. Some Christian scholars inappropriately refer to the Holy Spirit as "She" since the Hebrew word is feminine. However, the Hebrews did not conceive of the God of Israel as a female deity as found in pagan cultures. The gender of Hebrew words is generally inconsequential to their meaning and usage.

The Besekh amplifies the work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit inspired the Scriptures (Acts 28:25; 1 Cor 2:10; 2 Peter 1:21), He convicts of sin (Heb 3:7), He enables understanding of Scripture (John 14:26; 16:13), He intercedes in our prayers (Rom 8:26f), He helps disciples to testify for Yeshua (Matt 10:20), He inspires prophesying (John 16:13; Acts 2:18), He gives direction for evangelism (Acts 8:29; 10:19; 11:12), He speaks to the congregation about its ministry and character (Acts 13:2; 15:28; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22), He testifies of one’s suffering or death (Luke 2:25-26; Acts 20:23) and He regenerates and sanctifies believers to produce godly character that conforms to the Torah of God (John 6:63; Acts 1:8; Rom 7:6; 8:13f; 1 Cor 6:11; Gal 5:22; 2 Thess 2:13).

Or where can I flee: Heb. barach, Qal imperfect, to go through, to flee. David might hasten away, but to what purpose? from Your presence: Heb. panim, face or faces. In Scripture God has three faces, the Father, the Spirit and the Son, but here the Spirit is particularly emphasized.

8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.

Targum: If I go up to the heavens, you are there; and if I lower myself to Sheol, behold, there is your word.

If: Heb. im, may function grammatically as a conjunction, hypothetical particle, imperfect, infinitive, or interrogative particle. Here im serves to introduce a theoretical or imaginary scenario. I ascend: Heb. nasaq, Qal imperfect, a hypothetical participle, to ascend. The verb occurs only here in the Tanakh. BDB identifies the verb as a loanword from Aramaic (701). This fact does not mean that the psalm is a post-exilic work, because Aramaic is a very old language. to heaven: 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).

You are there: Since heaven is the place of God's throne, there is no surprise that God would be there. However, the significance of the statement is the possibility of going to heaven, although David does not necessarily contemplate the trip as a result of death. If: There is no repeat of im in the Hebrew text but the hypothetical construction continues. I make my bed: Heb. yatsa, Hiphal imperfect, to lay or spread as a couch. Death is often likened to sleeping in Scripture, probably due to the repose of the body after the breath of life has gone. Conversely, descriptions of resurrection use verbs pertaining to arising from sleep. in Sheol: Heb. Sheol, the underworld, the place to which people descend at death. The LXX translates Sheol with Grk. Hadês (DNTT, II, 206). In Greek culture Hadês originally referred to the god of the underworld, but in later Greek Hadês became associated with a place.

In the Tanakh little is known of Sheol, except that it is a place of darkness devoid of joy (Job 17:13; Ps 6:5). However, during the intertestamental period Rabbinic Judaism embraced the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and resurrection, which altered the concept of Sheol. Reward and punishment would begin after death and the souls of the righteous would enter heavenly blessedness, while the souls of the ungodly are punished in Sheol. Josephus records that this was the position of the Pharisees and the Essenes (Antiquities, XVIII, 1:3-5). This separation is clearly presented in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:22-26). Thus Sheol lost its role as the resting place of all souls and became a place where the unredeemed dead are kept in anticipation of the final judgment.

Behold You are there: Heb. hên, interjection, lo, behold. The word calls attention to some fact upon which a conclusion is based. In other words, if God is in all three heavens, then He must assuredly also be in Sheol. We read in Jeremiah 23:24, "Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?" declares the LORD. "Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?" declares the LORD." Morris restates the hypothetical statement as, "Even if it were humanly possible to build a spaceship to carry us out to the very end of space, or a tunneling projectile to convey us to the center of the earth, God would be awaiting us there." (94).

9 If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,

Targum: I will lift up the fringes of sunrise, I will abide at the ends of the sea [west].

If: There is no "if" in the Hebrew text, but David poses a new hypothetical scenario. I take: Heb. nasa, Qal imperfect, to lift, carry or take. the wings: pl. of Heb. kanaph, wing or extremity, generally used of the wings of birds, insects, cherubim and seraphim. of the dawn: Heb. shachar, dawn or morning light breaking at the horizon. David employs figurative language to refer to the east, the place of the sun's rising. Similar language occurs in Malachi 4:2, "But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall."

If I dwell: Heb. shakan, Qal imperfect, to settle down, abide or dwell. in the remotest part: Heb. acharith, the after-part, end. of the sea: Heb. yam, (LXX thalassa) is used of both a sea, such as the Mediterranean, and inland bodies of water, i.e., lake. In the English language "sea" normally refers to a body of salt water and "lake" to a body of fresh water, although local convention can override this rule. Yam simply refers to a body of water deep enough and wide enough to require a boat to cross it. David most likely intends the Mediterranean Sea as the opposite direction from the dawn. The hypothesis is particularly theoretical since there is no evidence that David ever set foot on a boat. Since one cannot "dwell" on water and ancient boats were not houseboats the word picture probably means a distant land on the other side of the Sea.

10 Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me.

Targum: Also there your hand will guide me, and your right hand will seize me.

David concludes the logical outcome of the premise in verse 9. Even there Your hand: Heb. kaph. See the note on verse 5 above. will lead me: Heb. nachah, Hiphal imperfect, to lead or guide. And Your right hand: Heb. yamin, the right hand, referring to human anatomy. The "right hand" is often used figuratively in poetic verse of power for victory and deliverance, often of God (Ex 15:6; Ps 16:8; 17:7; 20:6; 118:16; 138:7). will lay hold of me: Heb. achaz, Qal imperfect, to grasp, take hold, take possession. David felt that God's guidance and protection extended far beyond the land of Israel.

11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, And the light around me will be night,"

Targum: And I said, “Truly darkness will blind me, and the night will become dark for my sake. [grows dark around me, but the night gives light for me]

If I say: Heb. amar, Qal imperfect, to utter or say. There is no "if" in the Hebrew text, but a hypothetical scenario is assumed as occurred in verses 8 and 9. Surely: Heb. ak, adverb, surely, howbeit. The adverb often introduces with emphasis the expression of a truth. the darkness: Heb. choshek, darkness, obscurity. The word often refers to darkness as opposed to light, but BDB says here it refers to a secret place or hiding place (365). will overwhelm me: Heb. shuph, Qal imperfect, to bruise. Some commentators think "bruise" is unsuitable in the context and that a different Hebrew word is intended meaning to cover or screen (BDB 1003). Owens reads the verbal phrase as "let hedge me about." The Targum translates the phrase as “Truly darkness will blind me." David, thus, seems to be personifying darkness.

and the light: Heb. or, the light of day, especially the morning light or dawn. around me: Heb. ba'ad, away from, behind, about, on behalf of. will be night: Heb. layil, night as opposed to day, i.e., the hours after sundown and before sunrise. The Targum reverses the meaning of the last clause by translating as "and the night will become dark for my sake," i.e., even the night will give light for David. The assertion of this version then becomes a statement of confidence and the reason follows.

12 Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

Targum: Also the darkness will not be too dark for your word, and the night, like day, will give light; like darkness, like light – they are equal.

God created the darkness, the original darkness of "the deep" (Gen 1:2), then the blackness of interstellar space (Isa 50:3) and the darkness that results from the movement of the earth and the sun (Gen 1:5). God can even remove light and thereby cause darkness to occur in a geographical place (Ex 10:21-22; 14:20; Josh 24:7). God has superior "night vision" and darkness is no impediment to God seeing and knowing everything that goes on in His universe. Scripture affirms this truth:

"He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him." (Dan 2:22)

"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (Heb 4:13)

"God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5)

13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.

Targum: For you have created my kidneys; you established me in the belly of my mother.

For You formed: Heb. qanah, Qal perfect, to get or acquire. Here the verb has the sense of originating or creating. my inward parts: Heb. kilyoth, pl. of kilyah, kidneys. The word only occurs in the plural, because there are two kidneys in the human body. The literal use of the term occurs mostly in the Torah in reference to sacrificial animals, which also have two kidneys. The word has also has a figurative use in poetic literature as the seat of emotion and affection (e.g., Job 19:27; Ps 16:7; 73:21). The word is found in Aramaic with two letters difference in spelling. The term here refers to the literal organ and could stand for all the bodily organs.

You wove me: Heb. sakak, Qal imperfect, to weave together. BDB identifies the verb as Qal perfect (697), which is more likely in context. The verb has two other principal uses: (1) to hedge or fence about, to shut in and (2) to overshadow, screen or cover. Sakak later became technical term of a structure shielding soldiers storming a city (Nah 2:6). Other passages express a similar thought:

"Did you not … Clothe me with skin and flesh, and knit me together with bones and sinews?" (Job 10:10-11)

"Just as you do not know the path of the wind and how bones are formed in the womb of the pregnant woman, so you do not know the activity of God who makes all things." (Eccl 11:5)

The concept of weaving is especially significant considering what modern science has discovered about the strands of DNA, the molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms.

in my mother's: Heb. ima, a female who is capable of giving birth and has given birth, a mother, generally the biological parent, although there are figurative uses. womb: Heb. beten, belly, body, womb, referred to scientifically as the uterus. The womb is the reproductive organ of females. The ASV, JUB, KJV, KJ21, NKJV and YLT translate sakak with the meaning of cover, which is also an accurate physiological description. As Morris says, the womb is amazingly designed to be an efficient and protective chamber in which the fragile embryonic body can develop, cushioned hydraulically from injury, yet continuously sustained and fed through the mother's body (95).

14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.

Targum: I will give you thanks, for you have miraculously done awesome things; your works are wonderful, and my soul knows it well.

I will give thanks: Heb. yadah, Hiphal imperfect, to throw or cast, here to laud, give thanks or praise. to You: David gives vocal praise to God for His amazing work of creation. for I am fearfully: Heb. yarê, Niphal participle, to fear or be afraid, here used adverbially to mean "cause astonishment and awe of God." Owens translates as "for fearful things." and wonderfully made: Heb. palah, Niphal perfect, to be separated or distinct. Owens translates as "I am wonderful" and BDB adds "in bodily structure" (811). The second verb emphasizes the uniqueness of each person and that individual identity occurred in the creative process of the womb.

Wonderful: Heb. palah, Niphal participle. are Your works: Heb. ma'aseh, a deed or work performed, here by God. and my soul: Heb. nephesh has a wide range of meaning including a soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, passion, appetite, and emotion. David uses the term as a circumlocution for himself. knows: Heb. yada, Qal active participle. See the note on verse 1 above. it very well: Heb. meod, muchness, force or abundance. The word is used idiomatically to express the idea of exceedingly, greatly, very (whether of magnitude or degree). Anyone who pauses long enough to contemplate the wondrous complexity of the human body must give praise to the Creator. To believe that evolution produced humanity is the height of stupidity.

15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

Targum: My self is not hidden from you, for I was made in secret, I was formed in the belly of my mother.

My frame: Heb. otsem, might or bones, here the latter in a collective sense. David refers to the body's skeletal structure. was not hidden: Heb. kachad, Niphal perfect, to be hidden. from You: Heb. min, prep. with second person suffix, referring to God. The word seems like a tautology since the first stanza of the psalm makes it clear that nothing is hidden from God. Yet, the word is appropriate in the conversational style of this psalm. When: Heb. asher, particle of relation, who, which or that. I was made: Heb. asah, Pual perfect, to accomplish, do or make. David did not evolve nor has any human being. A man and woman cannot "make" a baby. God engineered the human bodies to first join the genitals, then join sperm to egg and then develop the fetus to maturation.

in secret: Heb. sether, covering, hiding place, secret, here idiomatic of the womb. and skillfully wrought: Heb. raqam, Pual perfect, to variegate as in weaving cloth with colors (cf. Ex 26:69; 27:16; 28:39; 35:35; 36:37; 38:18, 23; 39:29). See the note on salak in verse 13 above. Spurgeon says, the verb is an accurate poetical description of the creation of veins, sinews, muscles, nerves, etc. What tapestry can equal the human fabric? in the depths: Heb. tachti, lower or lowest. The term may refer to (1) physical difference in height, whether of topographical features or man-made structures (Gen 6:16; Ex 19:17; Judg 1:15; Isa 44;23), (2) the interior of the earth were the Pit and Sheol are located (Deut 32:22; Ps 86:13; Ezek 31:14), (3) figurative of despair (Ps 88:6; Lam 3:55), and (4) figurative of the dark and hidden interior of the womb (BDB 1066).

of the earth: Heb. erets may designate (1) the earth in its entirety; (2) the earth in contrast to the heavens; (3) the inhabitants of the earth; (4) a particular territory or region; (5) soil as productive or (6) the ground, land as contrasted with the sea. In the Tanakh erets often refers to the land of Israel, perhaps including contiguous with Israel or under the subjugation by Israel. The determination of meaning relies on the context.

Anderson claims this description supports the Mother Earth theory (myth) based on Job 1:21, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there." Solomon expresses the same thought, ""As he had come naked from his mother's womb, so will he return as he came" (Eccl 5:15). Delitzsch explains that the mode of Adam's creation is repeated in the formation of every person (Job 33:6). The earth was the mother's womb of Adam, and the mother's womb out of which the child of Adam comes forth is the earth out of which it is taken. This shocking suggestion from Christian scholars apparently ignores the origin of this theory in paganism.

The Earth Mother is a motif that appears in many pagan mythologies. The Earth Mother is a fertile goddess embodying the fertile earth and typically, the mother of other deities, and so are seen as patronesses of motherhood. The earth was seen as being the mother from whom all life sprang. Also in pagan mythology, the sky was viewed as the father god, often the father of a pantheon. This concept of sky father and earth mother mating for the sake of producing fertility in mankind is embodied in the Freemason symbol.

There are two other ways Job's words may be taken. First, "mother" in his poetic verse may not mean his immediate biological mother, but Eve who was mother of all the living (Gen 3:20). Second, Job's reference to his return is not to his mother's womb, since such a concept is patently impossible. Nicodemus stated the obvious with a question, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" (John 3:4 ESV). So, the return is to where his mother is. As David said when his first child born of Bathsheba died,

"While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.' "But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (2 Sam 12:22-23)

Theologically we must consider Paul's words, "the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Gal 4:26). In other words, God is both father and mother. God simply used dirt as the building materials for the human body. God did not personify the Earth as a mother. Ultimately, the return to one's first mother is to return to dust as she and Adam did,

"By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return." (Gen 3:19; cf. Job 34:15; Ps 90:3; 104:29; Eccl 3:20)

Consider Solomon's observation: "then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Eccl 12:7).

Alter suggests that the literal sense could refer to the enveloping darkness of a cosmic netherworld and David makes a archetypal association between womb mentioned earlier in the psalm to the interior parts of the earth (481). This suggestion seems silly on the surface, since David was no Greek philosopher. However, David did understand the concept of the lowest parts (i.e., interior) of the earth, hidden from view of all but God. Gill adopts this comparison saying, "all this done in the dark shop of nature, in the "ovarium," where there is no more light to work by than in the lowest parts of the earth." Barnes concurs saying that God's handiwork occurs, "in a place as dark, as obscure, and as much beyond the power of human observation as though it had been done low down beneath the ground where no eye of man can penetrate." Spurgeon says also, "This work is wrought as much in private as if it had been accomplished in the grave, or in the darkness of the abyss."

In any event, the "depths of the earth" is a poetic allusion to the darkness of the womb without any mythological implications (Coffman, Kidner), as the Jewish translator of the Targum plainly understood. Rashi interprets the allusion as "the lowest compartment in my mother’s womb." Clarke says, "The womb of the mother, thus expressed by way of delicacy."

16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.

Targum: Your eyes see my body; and in the book of your remembrance all my days were written on the day the world was created [in six days]; in the beginning all creatures were created but not on a single day among them. [or, “one day, the Sabbath, was not among them]

Your eyes: pl. of Heb. ayin, an anthropomorphism. have seen: Heb. ra'ah, Qal perfect, to see in a physical sense. my unformed substance: Heb. golem, an embryo, from the verb galam, to wrap up, fold or fold together. The term occurs only here in the Tanakh. and in Your book: Heb. sepher, a missive, document, writing, book. In the Tanakh the heavenly book represents a census roll of the righteous (Ex 32:32-33; Ps 69:28; 87:6; Isa 4:3; Dan 12:1; Mal 3:16). In the Besekh the book is a registry of heaven’s citizens and property owners who were enrolled on the basis of faith in Yeshua (Phil 3:20; Heb 12:23; Rev 3:5; 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27). Yeshua told His disciples “rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

Given that God is omniscient He obviously doesn't need to keep written records and the references to the heavenly book may only be idiomatic for the list of those sharing in God's covenantal election and kingdom inheritance. were all: Heb. kol, the whole or all. written: Heb. kathab, Niphal imperfect, to write or record, generally in a literal sense. the 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), which is the meaning here. The Hebrews did not conceive of time in the abstract, but used yom overwhelmingly in the sense of ordinary measurable time.

that were ordained for me: Heb. yatsar, Pual perfect, to form or fashion, here to pre-ordain according to the divine purpose. The concept has no problem with the contingency in Psalm 90:10 that life may last 70 years or possibly 80 years. By the same token David may be referring to the purpose of those days and not the longevity. when as yet there was not one of them: lit. "not one was yet among them" (LITV). In other words, the writing in the book occurred before David was even conceived. According to the Targum the writing of every person's existence in God's book took place when the world was created, but probably more specifically when Adam was created. Paul expressed this thought when he said, "Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him" (Heb 7:9-10). When God created Adam the entire human race was in his loins.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them!

Targum: And how precious to me are those who love you, the righteous, O God; and how mighty have their scholars become!

How: Heb. mah, pronoun used in an interrogative sense. David is posing a rhetorical question to himself. precious: Heb. yaqar, Qal perfect, be precious, be prized or appraised. also are Your thoughts: Heb. rea. See the note on verse 2 above. What God thinks about mattered to David. to me, O God: Heb. El, God, god, mighty one or strength. El is a very ancient term, widely known throughout the ancient Semitic world (TWOT, I, 42). The term is used occasionally for men of rank, angels and gods of the nations, but the great majority of times El is the one and only true God of Israel, though not God's personal name. How: The interrogative is repeated. vast: Heb., atsam, Qal perfect, to be vast, mighty or numerous, here describing quantity. is the sum of them: Heb. rosh, head, here used in combination with the verb to indicate enumerating or calculating.

One way to comprehend God's thoughts "to me" is that every cell and molecule in the human body is the result of God's thoughts. God created Adam with a design in mind. The organization of the human body, structurally and organically, is a true wonder of wonders where there is a place for everything and everything in its place. Every human body is alike in its basic organization and yet there is also individuality of DNA and finger prints determined in the womb. A scientific calculation deduced 50 trillion as the number of cells in the human body, and one thousand trillion trillion molecules in the human body. Truly, how vast is the sum of God's thoughts toward me!

18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You.

Targum: I will number them in this age: they will be more numerous than sand; I awake in the age to come and still I am with you.

If I should count them: Heb. saphar, Qal imperfect, to count, recount or relate. David offers a rhetorical statement that relates to his ability to conduct arithmetical calculation. they would outnumber: Heb. rabah, Qal imperfect, become, much, many, great. BDB gives the meaning here to become many or numerous (915). Alter and Owens translate as "they are more than." the sand: Heb chol, sand, usually of the seashore. The hyperbolic metaphor first occurs in God's promise of fruitfulness to Abraham (Gen 22:17), then to Jacob (Gen 32:12) and finally the realization under King Solomon (1 Kgs 4:20; cf. Isa 10:22; Hos 1:10). The metaphor was also used of the amount of grain Joseph stored up in Egypt (Gen 41:49) and the extent of Solomon's wisdom (1 Kgs 4:29). Four times the metaphor was used of large numbers gathered for battle (cf. Josh 11:4; Judg 7:12; 1 Sam 13:5; 2 Sam 17:11; Rev 20:8).

In the first mention of sand God made a relative comparison of numbers of sand on the seashore to stars in the universe. Astronomers have estimated there are 1025 (10 million billion billion) stars in the universe, and one could calculate that this is about the number of grains of sand in the world (BBMS 156). If one could count even as many as 20 numbers per second, it would still take him at least 100 million billion years to count up to 1025. Yet, the sum of God's thoughts are greater than the grains of sand. Thus, it's more likely that David meant "if I could count them" (so AMP, ERV, EXB, NCV, NIRV, NLV, and NLT). In any event, David's analysis is correct. The number of molecules in the human body, each one representing God's engineering thoughts, easily exceeds the number of grains of sand on the earth.

When I awake: Heb. quts, Hiphal perfect, arise or awake from sleep. I am still with You: That is, "I am still in the land of the living," or perhaps "Your thoughts are still directed toward me." David marvels at the grace of God whose thoughts are so much greater than his thoughts (Isa 55:9). Why should God even take note of me?" (cf. 2 Sam 7:18). Yet, God's purposeful design extends to a desire for fellowship with us.

19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.

Targum: If you slay, O God, the wicked man, [then] men who are worthy of the judgment of death will depart from me.

O: Heb. im, hypothetical particle. See the note on verse 8 above. Here im has an interrogative function. that You would slay: Heb. qatal, Qal imperfect, to slay, that is kill in a violent manner. The verb can also apply to executions (Dan 2:13; 5:19). the wicked: Heb. rasha, adj., wicked or criminal. The term may refer to one who is guilty of a crime deserving punishment, one who is guilty of sin against God or man as specified in Torah or one who is guilty of hostility toward God and His people. O God: Heb. Eloah, a prolongation of the Hebrew word for God, El. See the note on verse 17 above. Eloah occurs 57 times in the Tanakh, 40 of which are in the book of Job. Although Eloah is used four times for a heathen deity (cf. 2 Kgs 17:31; 2 Chron 32:15; Dan 11:37; Hab 1:11), it is predominately used of the true Creator God.

Depart from me: Heb. sur, Qal imperative, to turn aside out of one's course, to depart from the vicinity of or to come to an end. therefore, men: pl. Heb. enosh, man or mankind. The term occurs frequently in Job and Psalms, both of individuals and men in a collective sense. of bloodshed: pl. of Heb. dam, blood. The plural noun emphasizes guiltiness for shedding blood with injustice and cruelty. David wishes that God would remove his enemies so that his fighting days would be over.

20 For they speak against You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain.

Targum: Who will swear in your name for deception, taking an oath in vain, your enemies.

For they speak against You: Heb. amar, Qal imperfect, to utter or say; also to mention, to name or to designate. The verb construction is lit. "Who say of You" (Owens). Alter identifies the verb as idiomatic of false swearing. wickedly: Heb. mezimmah, purpose, discretion or device, here descriptive of wicked actions or practices. Alter translates as "schemes." And Your enemies: pl. of Heb. ar, perhaps 'adversary.' BDB says the translation of adversary or enemy here is dubious. Owens suggests "cities." take: Heb. nasa, Qal passive participle, to lift, carry or take, lit. "who lift themselves" (Owens). The participle emphasizes that character that produces the action. Your name in vain: Heb. shav, emptiness, nothingness, vanity. Owens translates as "for evil." The words "Your name" do not occur in the Hebrew text, but Bible versions understand "nasu lashav" as an allusion to the third commandment.

In the original context God prohibited Israel from taking God's name, that is, being known as the people of YHVH and agreeing to obey His covenant and then acting contrary to His instructions. God gave these instructions about His name:

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." Ex 20:7

“Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.” Lev 24:16

Rashi interpreted David to mean, "They mention Your name regarding all the thoughts of their evil and call their deities with Your name." In other words, the wicked have no right to call their heathen deities Eloah. On the second commandment Keil explains that the commandment does not prohibit uttering the name, but all employment of the name of God for vain and unworthy objects, and includes not only false swearing (Lev 19:12), but trivial swearing in the ordinary intercourse of life, and every use of the name of God in the service of untruth and lying, for imprecation, witchcraft, or conjuring (398). The true use of the name of God is confined to forms of prayer and praise out of a believing heart. The natural heart is very liable to transgress this command, and therefore God solemnly enforces it by the threat, “for YHVH will not leave him unpunished."

21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?

Targum: Do I not hate all those who hate you, O Lord? And when they rise against you, I am incensed.

Do I not hate: Heb. sanê, Qal imperfect, to hate or hatred, to have a strong dislike of some person or thing. The LXX renders sanê with miseō (DNTT, I, 555). The verb generally indicates hate as an emotional impulse (e.g., Joseph’s brothers hated him because he was the favorite, Gen 37:2-5). The Hebrew word can also mean to love less or “put in second place” (e.g., Jacob loved Leah less than Rachel, Gen 29:30-31; cf. Deut 21:15-17). Yeshua spoke of “hating” one’s family (Luke 14:26-33), but he obviously did not intend his disciples to maintain an attitude of hostility and loathing toward their relatives. Wisdom teaches that hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses (Prov 10:12).

those who hate: Heb. sanê, Piel participle. You, O LORD: Heb. YHVH. See the note on verse 1 above. David poses a rhetorical question which may be an emphatic way of saying "I indeed hate" (Anderson). It should be noted that David's self-description of hate uses the Qal verb form, which describes simple action whereas for those who hate God David uses the Piel, which is the intensive form of the word. There is a qualitative difference between David's hate and the hatred of God's enemies. And do I not loathe: Heb. qot, Hithpolel imperfect, to be grieved or to feel a loathing. those who rise up against You: Heb. teqomem, Hithpolel participle, to rise up against, i.e., to oppose or to rebel against. The verb would support Gill's suggestion that the psalm was written in the context of Absalom's rebellion. To rebel against David, who as King served as God's regent on earth, was to oppose God.

If the subject is Absalom then "grieve" would be a better translation than "loathe." While David commended himself for hating God’s enemies (and that’s an important distinction), Scripture nowhere teaches that hate is permitted against someone who is a personal adversary. This common sentiment of Yeshua’ day resulted from a misinterpretation of David’s attitude. Indeed the Torah directs extending "love" to an enemy: "If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him" (Ex 23:5).

22 I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies.

Targum: I hate them to the destruction of hatred; they have become enemies to me.

I hate them: Heb. sanê, Qal perfect. See the previous verse. with the utmost: Heb. taklith, end or completeness. Owens translates the word with "perfect." hatred: Heb. sane. The word is repeated, but with the meaning of "hatred." David insists that his hatred is in no way impure. They have become: Heb. hayah, Qal perfect, to become or to be, lit. "they are to me." my enemies: pl. of Heb. oyev, enemy or foe. Gill comments that from David's point of view "the friends of God were David's friends, as angels and good men, and God's enemies were his; their friends and enemies, were common; so closely allied and attached were they to each other, as God and all good men are." Anderson expresses a similar analysis by saying that David's"hatred is not really an expression of personal feelings; he is primarily concerned with the honor of God and with upholding of the Covenant."

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts;

Targum: Search me out, O God, and know my thoughts; examine me and know my thinking.

Search me: Heb. chaqar, Qal imperative, to search. The verb may have the sense of (1) to explore, (2) to find out a person's sentiments or (3) to examine a person thoroughly, so as to expose weakness. Probably the third meaning is intended here. After his confession David submits his heart to divine evaluation, as Paul said, "For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord" (1 Cor 4:4). O God: Heb. El, the God of Israel. See the note on verse 17 above. and know: Heb. yada, Qal imperative. See the note on verse 1 above. my heart: Heb. levav, the inner man, the mind, the will, heart in a figurative sense. The "heart" is commonly thought of as the seat of emotions, but in Hebrew the term emphasizes intelligence, the working of the mind, as well.

Try me: Heb. bachan, Qal imperative, to examine, scrutinize, to search through and through. and know: Heb. yada, Qal imperative. The verb is repeated as a parallelism. my anxious thoughts: Heb. sarappim, disquieting thoughts, which may reflect self-doubt. Logically David knows he is okay with his emotions and he is right with God, but considering his family relations "second guessing" himself would not be surprising.

24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.

Targum: And see if any way of error is in me; and guide me in the path of those eternally upright.

And see: Heb. ra'ah, Qal imperative, to apprehend with the organ of the eyes, here used figuratively. If: Heb. im may function grammatically as a conjunction, hypothetical particle, imperfect, infinitive, or interrogative particle. Here im serves to introduce a theoretical or imaginary scenario. there be any hurtful: Heb. otsev, pain, either literally or figuratively of something unpleasant. way: Heb. derek, way, road, distance, or journey in a literal sense, or way or manner in a figurative sense. in me, And lead me: Heb. nachah, Qal imperative, to lead or guide. in the everlasting: Heb. olam, long duration, antiquity or futurity. way: Heb. derek. David contrasts God's way with man's way, reminiscent of the theme of the Two Ways that occurs in other psalms, such as Psalm 1. The "way of man" is hurtful owing to the Curse imposed on Adam in Genesis 3.

Works Cited




Robert Alter, The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. W.W. Norton & Co., 2007.


A.A. Anderson, Psalms 73-150. The New Century Bible Commentary. Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1972.


Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Notes on the Whole Bible. Public Domain. Also online.


Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.


Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). Ed. Ralph Earle. Baker Book House, 1967. Also online.


James Burton Coffman (1905-2006), Psalms. Commentaries on the Bible. Online


Thomas Coke (1747-1814), Psalms. Commentary on the Holy Bible. 6 vols. Online.


Edward M. Cook, The Psalms Targum: An English Translation. 2001. Online.


Franz Delitzsch, Psalms. Commentary on the Old Testament (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, 1866-1891), Vol. 5. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.


Dictionary of New Testament Theology. 3 Vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.


A.R. Faussett, The Book of Psalms. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown, 1871) Online.


John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.


Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on the Whole Bible. Hendrickson Pub., 1991. Online.


C.F. Keil, Pentateuch. Commentary on the Old Testament (C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, 1866-1891), Vol. 1. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.


Derek Kidner, Psalms 73-150. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009.


Henry M. Morris, Sampling the Psalms: A Scientific & Devotional Study of Selected Psalms. Master Books, 1991.


Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.


Charles H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David (1885). Public Domain. Online.


R. Laird Harris, ed., Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. Moody Press, 1980.


Copyright © 2013 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.