PSALM ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-NINE
Outline
  1. The All-Knowing One (vv.1-6)
  2. The All-Present One (vv.7-12)
  3. The All-Powerful One (vv.13-18)
  4. The All-Holy One (vv.19-24)
TITLE For the choir director (x;Cen:m.l; [def.art.w/prep.w/Piel.pt.m.s., natsar, to excel, be

preeminent; "director"]).

A Psalm of David (rAmz>mi [n.m.s., mizemor, psalm] dwId'l. [prep.w/pr.n.]).

INTRODUCTION:

  1. Psalm 139 is the second of seven consecutive psalms ascribed to David.
  2. Some resemblance to Job (e.g. the term Eloah for God, v.19) and some affinities to Aramaic have raised doubts over Davidic authorship.
  3. Aramaic influence is no proof of a late dating.
  4. The Gelineau version gives the psalm the heading "The Hound of Heaven", a reminder that Francis Thompsonís poem of that name owed its theme of flight and pursuit largely to the second stanza (vv.7-12), which is one of the finest examples of Hebrew poetry.
  5. The issue of the form of Ps.139 has engendered considerable discussion.
  6. Basically it is an individual prayer, in that it is addressed to God throughout.
  7. From the standpoint of primary genres it exhibits a mixed form.
  8. Verses 19-24 echo that which regularly occurs in a complaint.
  9. The earlier and longer portion of the psalm is quite different.
  10. It takes the form of a hymn, or at least a meditation employing hymnic features.
  11. It has hymnic forms, rhetorical questions in vv.7 and 17, and a verb of praising with a causal clause in v.14.
  12. It has hymnic material, such as praise of Yahwehís wonderfulness and awesomeness in v.14, of His works and thoughts in vv.14 and 17, and of creation in vv.13,15,16.
  13. The psalm also contains wisdom motifs, which are found elsewhere in hymns.
  14. There is the phenomenological rather than historical treatment, divine knowledge (first stanza) and presence (second stanza), and the ethic of the two ways (fourth stanza).
  15. The basic issue of the psalmís setting is not easy to resolve.
  16. A number of scholars' reason that the background is that of some sort of accusation leveled against the author.
  17. The psalm can be viewed as an individual complaint in a developed form, prefaced by a long passage (first three stanzas) praising divine attributes, which the sufferer finds relevant to his situation.
The All-Seeing One (vv.1-6)
Always Known (v.1)

VERSE 1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me (hw"hy> [pr.n.] ynIT;r>q;x] [Qal.pf.2.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., chaqar, search, examine] `[d'Tew: [conj.w/Qal.impf.2.m.s., yada, know]).

At Work and at Rest (v.2)

VERSE 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up (hT'a; [pro.2.m.s.] T'[.d;y" [Qal.pf.2.m.s., yadha, know] yTib.vi [Qal.infin.cstr.w/1.c.s.sf., yashabh, dwell, sit] ymiWqw> [conj.w/Qal.infin.cstr.w/1.c.s.sf., qum, rise]);

You understand my thought from afar (hT'n>B; [Qal.pf.2.m.s., bin, understand] y[irel. [prep.w/n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., ra-a, thought] `qAxr'me [prep.w/adj.m.s., rachoq, distant]).

Activity and Inactivity (v.3)

VERSE 3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down (t'yrIzE [Piel.pf.2.m.s., zarah, to scatter; to shift; "scrutinize"] yxir>a' [Qal.infin.cstr.w/1.c.s.sf., arach, to journey, travel; "my path"] y[ib.rIw> [conj.w/Qal.infin.cstr.w/1.c.s.sf., rabha, to stretch out, lie down]),

And are intimately acquainted with all my ways (yk;r'D>-lk'w> [conj.w/n.m.s., kal, all, + n.m.p.w/1.c.s.sf., derek, way] `hT'n>K;s.hi [Hiphil.pf.2.m.s., sakhan, to be of use or service; know intimately]).

Perfect Prescience (v.4)

VERSE 4 Even before there is a word on my tongue (yKi [conj., for; "Even"] !yae [neg., nothing] hL'mi [n.f.s., millah, utterance] ynIAvl.Bi [prep.w/n.f.s., lashon, tongue]),

Behold, O LORD, You know it all (!he [interj.] hw"hy> [pr.n.] T'[.d;y" [Qal.pf.2.m.s., yada, know] `HL'ku [n.m.s.w/3f.s.sf., "it all"]).

 

A Presence that Cannot be Denied (v.5)

VERSE 5 You have enclosed me behind and before (ynIT'r>c; [Qal.pf.2.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., tsur, to bind, shut in, besiege] rAxa' [n.m.s., achor, the rear] ~d,q,w" [conj.w/n.m.s., qedhem, east, front]),

And laid Your hand upon me (tv,T'w: [conj.w/Qal.impf.2.m.s., shith, put] `hk'P,K; [n.f.s.w/2.m.s.sf., kaph, hand] yl;[' [prep.w/1.c.s.sf., "upon me"]).

An Awareness that Humbles (v.6)

VERSE 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me (t[;d; [n.f.s., da-ath, knowledge] ha'yliP. [adj.f.s., peli-ah, wonderful, incomprehensible] yNIM,m [prep., min, w/1.c.s.sf.]);

It is too high, I cannot attain to it (hb'G>f.nI [Niphal.pf.3.f.s., shaghabh, to be high, be inaccessibly high] lk;Wa-al [neg. + Qal.impf.1.c.s., yakhal, prevail, be able to attain] i`Hl' [prep.w/3f.s.sf.]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 1-6

  1. Verses 1-6 are bound together by the key word "know", with Yahweh as the subject, no less than four times.
  2. The noun "knowledge" occurs in v.6.
  3. This stanza presents the psalmistís reflections on the attribute of Omniscience.
  4. David comes before God to present his prayer of vindication.
  5. He protests his innocence of certain charges, evidently presented against him, before Yahweh who has insight into the whole of his life.
  6. The psalmist is not engaged in quiet reverie on a divine attribute, but pleading that justice be done.
  7. A polemical (argue a point) element is implicit from the outset.
  8. Every detail of his daily routine (vv.2,3), every unspoken word (v.4), is known to God.
  9. God knows him inside and out.
  10. In the O.T. such terms as "know", "examine" (vv.1,2), "see" (vv.16,24), and "try" (v.23) are used with God as the subject to refer to His providential role as Judge, punishing the guilty and acquitting the innocent.
  11. These associations of terms used in the psalm indicate that the psalmist is in some situation of attack.
  12. The psalm is comparable to Jeremiahís appeal for vindication (Jer.12:1-3).
  13. This statement of Omniscience is characteristically vivid and concrete.
  14. The divine knowledge is not merely comprehensive, like that of some receptor that misses nothing, capturing everything alike.
  15. It is personal and active: discerning us (v.2b); sifting us (v.3a, where "scrutinize" is based on the term for winnowing); knowing our minds more closely than we know them ourselves (v.2b; cf. Amos.4:13); surrounding us (v.5a, "enclosed"); handling us (v.5b).
  16. David begins by acknowledging that God has already "searched"/examined him inside and out (v.1a).
  17. In the second term he recognizes that what God has found to be true is always before Him (Qal.impf., "known").
  18. The divine searching includes when he is at rest and at work (v.2a; cf. 2Kgs.19:27).
  19. Furthermore, distance is no barrier to Godís perfect knowledge of His servant (v.2b).
  20. If David entertains a "thought", God reads it perfectly.
  21. The intents and thoughts of our hearts are perfectly monitored by God.
  22. To be pleasing to Him in our thought patterns, we must know and apply the WOG.
  23. The wicked tend to think just the opposite (Pss.10:11; 94:7,9).
  24. When David is active or when he retires for the night, God is there scrutinizing his every action (v.3a).
  25. Verse 3 has to do with overt activity (cp. Job.31:4, 34:21).
  26. The degree of divine awareness is stated in v.3b.
  27. God knows his strengths and weaknesses.
  28. He knows his STA bents and quirks.
  29. Even before David speaks (expression of thought) God is aware of what he is going to say.
  30. God has a perfect read on everyone, from eternity past right up to the moment of expression.
  31. Nobody can hide anything from God (Heb.4:13).
  32. Verse 4a is the psalmistís confession of the extent of divine prescience (foreknowledge).
  33. In v.5a David acknowledges that God has him hedged in.
  34. God surrounds man on all sides, and man can do nothing if Godís confining hand does not allow him the requisite freedom of action.
  35. Men like to think they are free to do as they please, but God, who knows all, has the ability to overrule when it is in His interests to do so.
  36. Verse 5 introduces us to the concept of Omnipresence applied.
  37. God can, and does, frustrate activity that He desires to overrule.
  38. David was permitted, as all believers are, to operate outside the directive will.
  39. When he operated in the directive will, as he often did, the divine presence was there to guide, bless, and direct.
  40. The result of this encompassing is stated in v.5b.
  41. Verse 5 is simply a neutral statement of Godís absolute control of Davidís movements.
  42. The divine hand (power to bless or discipline) is upon Davidís life in accordance with what God absolutely knows to be true.
  43. The divine hand ("palm") can refer to His loving care or punishment.
  44. For other examples of this expression, note: 1Chr.28:19; Ezra.7:28; Ps.32:4; Jer.15:17; Ezek.33:22.
  45. The power of God in our lives for good or ill is based on what God knows to be true.
  46. The positive believer is cared for in a special way.
  47. God both surrounds him and controls his movements.
  48. God knows just the right touch, as it were, for each situation we find ourselves in.
  49. Verse 6 presents a fitting meditation to conclude this stanza dealing with Omniscience in the life of a believer.
  50. God has a perfect read on collective humanity (Pss.33:14; 53:2; Isa.29:15).
  51. A knowledge that is so comprehensive and so penetrating as that overwhelms David, and he can only feel his finiteness.
  52. The psalmist reacts to divine Omniscience with wonder.
  53. It is beyond his ken and too sublime to comprehend.
  54. In the arena of knowledge a gulf lies between Yahweh and himself.
  55. He is driven to acknowledge his own sense of limitation and inadequacy (cf. Job.42:2,3b).
  56. Only God knows the end from the beginning (Isa.46:10).
  57. If we will submit ourselves to Him, He will lead us in thought, word, and deed.
  58. Hence, the importance of face-to-face teaching, prayer, and staying in fellowship.
The All-Present One (vv.7-12)
The Rhetorical Question (v.7)

VERSE 7 Where can I go from Your Spirit (hn"a' [interrog.pro.] %leae [Qal.impf.1.c.s., halakh, walk, go] ^x,Wrme [prep.w/n.f.s., ruach, spirit])?

Or where can I flee from Your presence (hn"a'w> [conj.w/interrog.pro.] `xr'b.a, [Qal.impf.1.c.s., barach, flee] ^yn<P'mi [prep.w/n.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., peh, face])?

Heaven Above or Sheol Below (v.8)

VERSE 8 If I ascend to heaven, You are there (qS;a,-~ai [adv. + Qal.impf.1.c.s., nasaq, ascend; 1X] ~yIm;v' [n.m.p., shamayim, heaven] ~v' [adv., there] hT'a' [pro.2.m.s.]);

If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there (h['yCia;w> [conj.w/Hiphil.impf.1.c.s., yatsa, spread out, make a bed] lAaV. [n.m.s., sheol] `&'N<hi [interj.] ~v' [adv., there] hT'a' [pro.2.m.s.]).

Where Can I Run to? (v.9)

VERSE 9 If I take the wings of the dawn (aF'a, [Qal.impf.1.c.s., nasha, lift; "take"] rx;v'-ypen>k; [n.f.p.cst., kanaph, wing, + n.m.s., shachar, dawn]),

If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea (hn"K.v.a, [Qal.impf.1.c.s., shakhan, dwell] tyrIx]a;B. [prep.w/n.f.s, acharith, extremity; latter time, hindermost] `~y" [n.m.s., yam, sea]),

The Divine Reach (v.10)

VERSE 10 Even there Your hand will lead me (~v'-~G: [conj. + adv.] ^d>y" [n.f.s.w/2.m.s.sf., yadh, hand] ynIxen>t; [Hiphil.impf.3.f.s.w/1.c.s.sf., nachah, lead],

And Your right hand will lay hold of me (ynIzEx]atow> [conj.w/Qal.impf.3.f.s.w/1.c.s.sf., achaz, grasp, take hold, seize] `^n<ymiy> [n.f.s., yamin, right hand]).

No Hindrance in the Darkness (v.11,12)

VERSE 11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me (rm;aow" [conj. w/Qal.impf.1.c.s., amar, say] %v,xo-%a; [adv., akh, surely, + n.m.s., choshekh, darkness] ynIpeWvy> [Qal.impf.3.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., shuph, bruise, fall upon]),

And the light around me will be night (rAa [n.m.s., or, light] `ynIde[]B; [prep.w/1.c.s.sf., ba-adh, behind, round about] hl'y>l;w> [conj., "And", w/n.m.s., layil, night]),"

VERSE 12 Even the darkness is not dark to You (%v,xo-~G: [conj. + n.m.s., choshekh] %yvix.y:-al{ [neg. + Hiphil.impf.3.m.s., chashakh, be dark] ^M,mi [prep.w/2.m.s.sf.; "to You"]),

And the night is as bright as the day (hl'y>l;w> [conj.w/n.m.s., layil, night] ~AYK; [prep.w/n.m.s., yom, day]).

Darkness and light are alike to You (hk'yvex]K; [def.art.w/prep.w/n.f.s., chashekah, darkness] `hr'AaK' [def.art.w/prep.w/n.f.s., orah, light] ryaiy" [Hiphil.impf.3.m.s., or, become light; "are like"]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 7-12

  1. Godís closeness, broached in v.5, is developed in this second stanza.
  2. The rhetorical question of v.7 has as its background the impulse to run away, an impulse as old as the Fall.
  3. David faced the temptation to flee the pressures of his niche (Ps.11:1b).
  4. Hagar, Elijah, and Jonah actually fled from the geographical will of God, only to be dramatically confronted by Him in their chosen places of flight.
  5. Admittedly, the talk of flight may be a purely literary device to dramatize the fact of Godís Omnipresence.
  6. But there seems to be at least an underlying indifferent attitude to Him, like that of a child running from its parent.
  7. If thought of escape had not been in Davidís mind here, he could have said, "What shall separate me from Your Spirit, or drive me from Your presence?".
  8. God is a spirit that fills all space and time (Jer.23:24).
  9. The question of v.7 is amplified into a series of examples (vv.8-12).
  10. The first example (v.8) is that of heaven (third) above and the earth beneath.
  11. David did indeed "ascend to heaven" above when Christ "lead captivity captive" at His ascension.
  12. Prior to that David had made "his bed in Sheol", as that was the resting-place of O.T. saints.
  13. Wherever David was, and is, Godís presence was, and is, there to bless and comfort him.
  14. Fugitives from Godís wrath cannot retire to a place where He is not present to bring them into judgment (Amos.9:2-4).
  15. The second example in v.9 is interesting in that it deals with practically impossible scenarios.
  16. The first example (v.9a) has to do with flight that is at the speed of light.
  17. The poetic expression "the wings of the dawn" refers to the speed at which the light of the sun arising in the east spreads westward.
  18. The resurrection body will be capable of such speeds of transit.
  19. The second example (v.9b) is equally impossible in that it has to do with a place that is inaccessible to most over the course of human history.
  20. However, this has changed to a large degree with the invention of the modern submarine.
  21. Also, the resurrection body will be able to walk on the floor of the ocean!
  22. Or on the surface, for that matter.
  23. David uses the example of v.9b to make an application of the ever present God to himself.
  24. Even if he were "in the remotest part of the ocean" by some stretch of the imagination, he knows that God would be "there" to direct his path, and that the power of God would keep him safe (v.10).
  25. Godís plan for his life would not be frustrated even though he found himself in some inconceivable or outrageous place.
  26. After all, God preserved Jonah in the stomach of a great fish.
  27. The personal life of the psalmist is related spatially to divine universality.
  28. He has no cause of concern, for wherever he might be, he is assured that the benevolent hand of God is equal to the situation.
  29. Negative volition, on the other hand, cannot escape the "hound of heaven".
  30. The divine threat of judgment is seen in Jer.23:24: "Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him?ÖDo I not fill heaven and earth?"
  31. Man cannot escape God: "before Him no creature is hidden" (Heb.4:13).
  32. The psalmist cannot hide, or hide anything, from God, and it is by this principle that he lived his life.
  33. He has not tried to "deeply hide" his "plans from the LORD" (Isa.29:15) like so many do.
  34. The divine presence means not only what God observes (Omniscience), but also divine control (Omnipotence).
  35. He controls not only the psalmist but the whole world, so that nowhere in Godís creation could anyone evade Him: "Sheol and Abaddon lie open before Yahweh, how much more the hearts of men!" (Prov.15:11).
  36. In vv.11,12 the psalmist moves to his final example.
  37. In this example he brings the attribute of Omniscience back into the foreground.
  38. Taken as a given that God is present in the physical darkness, the question is: "Is His essence inhibited with respect to what is there?".
  39. The superhuman character of divine sight, irrespective of the presence or absence of light is affirmed in the final example.
  40. The tendency on the part of man is to attribute to God manís limitations.
  41. People tend to feel less secure when threatened in the darkness versus the light.
  42. Verse 11 presents the psalmistís natural alarm.
  43. His natural tendency is to feel less secure when "the darkness overwhelms" him (v.11a).
  44. The verb "overwhelm" (shuph) has as its root meaning, "to bruise".
  45. This choice of verbs represents a metaphor of distress.
  46. Under STA-sponsored fear, darkness appears to be an impediment to Godís ability to protect us.
  47. "If I say" indicates a potential situation in which the psalmist exhibits human-viewpoint reasoning based on fear.
  48. His human viewpoint is that he is less safe when "the light around me (daylight) will become night" (v.11b).
  49. Being a man with an STA, he is vulnerable to the human viewpoint that "the darkness" makes him more vulnerable to his enemies.
  50. Verse 12 is his affirmation of divine viewpoint to counter the STA-sponsored viewpoint that he might fall into on a given occasion.
  51. Even if he is out of fellowship and in the grip of human viewpoint, the reality is that he has as much divine support at night as he does in the daytime.
  52. It is one thing to know something to be the case and quite another to apply it under duress.
  53. So in v.12 he affirms in the presence of God that "the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are the same to You".
  54. God sees what is going on around the believer at all times; He is not in the least inhibited in His ability to see and help due to the relative absence of light.
  55. As applied to evildoers, see Job.34:22 (cp. 22:13).
  56. So he affirms the supernatural character of divine sight irrespective of light.
  57. The One who created the physical phenomena known as light and darkness (Isa.45:7) is not subject to the limitations of time, space, or any other physical phenomenon.
  58. God is everywhere at once, while man can only be in one place at one time.
  59. God possesses both perfect anticipation (foreknowledge) with respect to all things and perfect observation of all things as they transpire.
  60. He also has perfect recall with respect to all that has happened.
  61. Godís essence is not limited by anything He creates, such as darkness.
The All-Powerful One (vv.13-18)

VERSE 13 For You formed my inward parts (hT'a;-yKi [conj. + pro.2m.s.] t'ynIq' [Qal.pf.2.m.s., qanah, to get, acquire; to cause to possess; "formed"] yt'yOl.ki [n.f.p.w/1.c.s.sf., kileyah, kidney; seat of emotions; "inward parts"]);

You wove me in my mother's womb (ynIKesuT. [Qal.impf.2.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., sakhach, shut in, block, to overshadow; "wove"] !j,b,B. [prep.w/n.f.s., beten, womb, belly] `yMiai [n.f.s.w/1.c.s.sf., em, mother]).

VERSE 14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made (^d>Aa [Hiphil.impf.1.c.s.w/2.m.s.sf., yada, give thanks] l[ [prep., "to"] yK [conj.] tAar'An I [Niphil.pt.f.p., yare, fear; "fearfully"; but better: "awesomely", as the same plural verb is used adverbially in Job.37:5] ytiylep.nI [Niphal.pf.1.c.s., palah, be distinct, be distinguished; be wonderful; "wonderfully made"; however, a better translation of this is: "for I am awesomely wonderful"];

Wonderful are Your works (~yail'p.nI [Niphal.pt.m.p., pala, be wonderful] ^yf,[]m; [n.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., ma-asheh, deed]),

And my soul knows it very well (yvip.n:w> [conj.w/n.f.s.w/1.c.s.sf., nephesh] t[;d;yO [Qal.pt.f.s., yada, know] `daom. [adv., very]).

VERSE 15 My frame was not hidden from You (ymic.[' [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., otsem, bone; skeleton] dx;k.nI-al{ [neg. + Niphal.pt.3.m.s., kachadh, hide, conceal] &'M,mi [prep.w/2.m.s.sf., "from You"]),

When I was made in secret (ytiyFe[u-rv,a] [rel. part., "When", + Pual.pf.1.c.s., ashah, to be made] rt,Seb; [prep.w/n.m.s., sether, hiding place, secrecy]),

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth (yTim.Q;r [Pual.pf.1.c.s., raqam, blend colors; skillfully woven; cf. Ex.39:29] tAYTix.t;B. [prep.w/n.f.p., tacheti, lowest parts; cp. Ex.19:17: "foot of the mountain"; Deut.32:22: "foundations of the mountains"; Josh.15:19: "lower springs"; Ps.86:13: "depths of Sheol"; Lam.3:55: "lowest pit"; Ezek.26:20; 32:24: "lower parts of the earth"; Ezek.31:14,16,18: "to the earth beneath"; 32:18: "to the nether world"] `#r,a [n.f.s., eretz, earth]).

VERSE 16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance (^yn<y[e [n.f.dual.w/2.m.s.sf., ayin eye] War' [Qal.pf.3.c.p., ra-ah, see] ymil.G" [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., golem, embryo, fetus; "unformed substance; 1X]);

And in Your book they were all written (^r>p.si-l[;w> [conj.w/prep. + n.m.s.w/2.m.s.sf., sepher, book] ~L'Ku [n.m.s.w/3.m.p.sf., all; "they were all"] WbteK'yI [Niphal.impf.3.m.p., kathabh, write]),

The days that were ordained for me (~ymiy" [n.m.p., yom, day] WrC'yU [Pual.pf.3.c.p., yatsar, form; to be predetermined]),

When as yet there was not one of them ( ÎAlw>Ð [conj.w/prep.w/3.m.s.sf., yet] dx'a,¿al{w>À [conj.w/neg. + adj.m.s., echadh, one] `~h,B' [prep.w/3.m.p.sf., "of them"]).

VERSE 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God (Wrq.Y"-hm; [interrog. pro. + Qal.pf.3.c.p., yaqar, to esteem; "precious"] ^y[,re [n.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf, ra-a, thought] yliw> [conj.w/prep.w/1.c.s.sf., "to me"] lae [n.m.s., god])!

How vast is the sum of them (hm, [interrog.pro.] Wmc.[' [Qal.pf.3.c.p., atsam, be vast, numerous] `~h,yvear' [n.m.p.w/3.m.p.sf., rosh, head, sum])!

VERSE 18 If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand (~reP.s.a [Qal.impf.1.c.s.w/3.m.p.sf., saphar, count] !WBr>yI [Qal.impf.3.m.p., rabhah, be numerous; "outnumber"] lAxm [n.m.s., chol, sand]).

When I awake, I am still with You (yticoyqih [Hiphil.pf.1.c.s., quts, spend the summer; cognate noun is "summer"] `%M'[ [prep., with, + 2.f.s.sf., "with You"]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 13-18

  1. The psalmist returns in the third stanza to express the principal theme, Godís complete knowledge of his total person.
  2. In the first stanza he focused on the fact that God knows the invisible things of his innermost thoughts.
  3. Divine Omniscience is applied to the totality of his daily regime, as there is nothing that escapes Godís all-seeing eyes.
  4. In the second stanza he applies the attribute of Omnipresence to his spatial existence.
  5. He acknowledges the fact that he cannot hide from God or be hidden from God.
  6. Inability to be hidden from God, treated from the spatial and temporal aspects (vv.8-12), is now applied to the making of his physical person (v.13).
  7. "For You" is an emphatic reference to the Creator of his body.
  8. "Formed" is the verb meaning, "to acquire" in the sense of acquiring by creative design.
  9. "My inward parts" is, literally, "my kidneys" (cf. Lev.8:16; et al.).
  10. The kidneys ("reins" in the KJV) symbolize the emotions, including the most secret feelings (Job.19:27; Pss.7:10; 16:6; 26:2; 73:21; Prov.23:16; Jer.11:20; 17:10; 20:12; Lam.3:13).
  11. Here the reference is to the internal organs of human anatomy.
  12. Through genetic engineering David acquired his visceral organs, of which the term kidney, translated "inward parts", is a figure of speech.
  13. In this figure (synecdoche) a single part is regarded as the whole (heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, spleen, etc.).
  14. In line 2 of v.13 the intricate handiwork of God is seen in the verb "wove me".
  15. The homonymous stem sakhach, "to cover", is less likely than the one meaning "weave together" (cf. Job.10:11).
  16. The allusion to woven cloth with different-colored threads in v.15 lends support for this meaning.
  17. "In my mothers womb" is in reference to the development of the fetus from conception to birth.
  18. The fact that man is manifest to God even in his innermost being, and in every place, is further confirmed from the origin of the psalmistís physical makeup.
  19. The development of the child in the womb was looked upon by Jewish wisdom as one of the greatest mysteries (Eccl.11:5).
  20. Here the psalmist praises this process as a marvelous work of the Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent God.
  21. In v.14 David confesses himself overwhelmed by awe when he contemplates his physical origin and makeup.
  22. The corrected translation of v.14a should be: "for I am awesomely wonderful".
  23. And for this, he for one "will give thanks".
  24. In another psalm (his swan song) he gives God the credit for his exceptional physical prowess as a warrior (Ps.18:32-34).
  25. Instead of being arrogant, he maintained a humble attitude with respect to his inherited genetics.
  26. God was there at the time of his conception and development in the womb conferring upon him the assets he needed to serve God in his niche.
  27. With regard to David, God set up the biological mechanisms and superintended the stages of his fetal development.
  28. Nothing was left to chance.
  29. David had great capacity for all that he was and always gave God the credit.
  30. To David all of Godís "works" were "wonderful", or "awe-inspiring (Ps.40:5).
  31. BD gives us great capacity for the Creator and His works.
  32. In line 3 of v.14 he asserts before God that this is something he is highly aware of.
  33. We should pray that God will give us capacity for His "works".
  34. Knowing this, we should aspire to walk in all His ways (Deut.32:6) so that we are not at odds with the creative order and the One who will bring all men into judgment.
  35. In v.15 David recognizes that nothing relative to his fetal development escaped the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of his creation.
  36. "My frame" is, literally, "my bones", and is a reference to his skeletal structure.
  37. The formation of the skeleton in the womb was a great mystery to the Hebrews (Eccl.11:5).
  38. Even though modern man has the ability to observe and monitor the process, much remains a mystery.
  39. Every detail is observed and is under the direction of the Creator.
  40. "When" he "was made in secret" in the womb of his mother, God was aware and present, superintending the stages of the fetal development.
  41. Nothing is hidden from the eyes of God; nothing is left to chance.
  42. Again, in v.14c he acknowledges the fact that he was "skillfully wrought" (cp. v.13b) via genetic engineering and divine providence.
  43. The verb "skillfully wrought" (raqam) means "to mix colors" or "to variegate", and is used in the O.T. for the work of a weaver (Ex.26:36; 27:16; 28:39, et al.).
  44. It refers to the elaborate DNA molecules that carry the genetic information necessary for the functioning and organization of living cells and control the inheritance of characteristics.
  45. Study of the double stranded helix coiled around each other like a spiral ladder with the rungs of the ladder functioning like letters of the alphabet, which in the proper sequences produce meaningful genetic information, makes the language of v.15c apropos.
  46. The expression "depths of the earth" is a poetic way of referring to the womb.
  47. As the interior of the earth is a place of mystery, so is the development of a fetus in the womb of a pregnant woman.
  48. This is a figure for the dark womb.
  49. In the Koran the womb is referred to as "the threefold darkness".
  50. The earth was the motherís womb of Adam, and the womanís womb out of which the child comes forth is the earth out of which it is taken (Adam was created out of the dust of the earth).
  51. This is probably the basis for this expression.
  52. Certainly, it has to do with the fact that we are dealing with a sphere that is normally inaccessible to human observation.
  53. In v.16 David takes his understanding of Omniscience to an even higher plane.
  54. Not only did God observe every detail of his physical development in the womb, but He perfectly anticipated it long before he was conceived.
  55. "Your eyes have seen my unformed substance" is a reference to foreknowledge of what David would be when he came on the scene.
  56. The noun "unformed substance" (golem) means embryo/fetus.
  57. It only occurs here and comes from the verbal root galam, to fold up (2Kgs.2:8).
  58. It is an apt term, as the embryo is folded up in the shape of an egg.
  59. In the Talmud the term is used of any unshaped mass or the raw material out of which something is formed (cf. Job.10:8,9).
  60. The rather cryptic Hebrew of v.16b may mean either that "the days" of my life were mapped out in advance, or that my embryonic makeup was likewise planned and known well in advance of the stages of its development.
  61. The former option gives perhaps a slightly more straightforward sentence than the latter.
  62. But in either case the stanza so far has laid its main emphasis on our pre-natal fashioning by God.
  63. This is a powerful reminder of the value He sets on us, even as embryos, and of the planning of our end from the beginning.
  64. God has not only taken eternal note of our "frame", but He has "ordained" (yatsar, to form, fashion) the number of our days.
  65. In fact, there is a "book" that contains a complete record of our life on earth (cp. Ps.56:8).
  66. God wrote our complete life history in His book from eternity past.
  67. Davidís comment in line 3 of v.16 makes this crystal clear.
  68. Included in that record is the date of our birth and death.
  69. God keeps a perfect record of everyoneís life on earth (cf. Job.14:5).
  70. Everyoneís days are numbered (Job.14:5).
  71. The longevity of people is based on what God foreknew and what His purposes are for them.
  72. Verse 16 features Omniscience and Sovereignty.
  73. In v.17 David moves from contemplating Godís works to His innumerable "thoughts" towards him.
  74. In the first stanza he contemplated his own thoughts and their nakedness before God (v.2).
  75. Here he contemplates the vastness of Godís thoughts toward him.
  76. He is not exaggerating when he compares them to the grains of sand upon the earth (v.18a).
  77. Even in his makeup there is an unimaginable wealth of detail.
  78. Such divine knowledge is not only incomprehensible, but the very idea that God knows everything imaginable about us (number of hairs on our head) is "precious", since it carries with it proof of divine commitment and care.
  79. God will not leave the work of His hands to chance or neglect.
  80. Already the metaphor of "Your book" (v.16; cf. Ps.56:8) has ruled out a casual attitude.
  81. How can any child of God doubt the loving care and protection of God, who was looking out for us long before we arrived on the scene?
  82. Even when we are asleep, God is present thinking about us in our every detail.
  83. The thought of v.18b is that God will watch over him when he is unconscious and be there to guide and protect him in the next day of his life on earth (cp. Ps.3:5).
  84. "When I awake" refers to physical sleeping and awaking.
  85. The steady stream of divine Omniscience is always there even when we cannot think about our relationship to God (one-third of our time is spent sleeping).
  86. It is very comforting to contemplate the fact of Godís innumerable thoughts towards each one of us.
  87. Our thoughts, while finite by comparison, should be trained upon His directive will.
  88. He who is for us will direct our thoughts in accordance with His perfect will on a moment-by-moment basis.
  89. Hence, the importance of learning and applying BD!
 
The All-Holy One (vv.19-24)

VERSE 19 O that You would slay the wicked, O God (ljoq.Ti-~ai [adv. + Qal.impf.2.m.s., qatal, kill, slay] [v'r' [adj.m.s., rasha, wicked, criminal] H;Ala/ [n.m.s., God, god]);

Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed (WrWs [Qal.imper., sur, depart, turn aside] `yNIm, [prep.w/1.c.s.sf., "from me"] yven>a;w> [conj.w/n.m.p.cstr., ish] ~ymid' [n.m.p., dam, blood]).

VERSE 20 For they speak against You wickedly (rv,a] [rel.part., "For"] ^rum.ayO [Qal.impf.3.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., amar, say] hM'zIm.li [prep.w/n.f.s., mezammah, discretion, device, plot; devices; "wickedly"]),

And Your enemies take Your name in vain (`^yr,[' [n.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., ar, usually used of a city in Moab, but here and in 1Sam.28:16 it is used of an adversary; the root means someone who waits for an opportune time] afun" [Qal.pf.3.c.p., nasa, lift up, take] aw>V'l; [def.art. w/prep.w/n.m.s., shawe, vain, empty speech]),

VERSE 21 Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD (^ya,n>f;m.-aAlh] [interrog.part.w/neg. + Piel.pt.m.p.w/2.m.p.sf., sane, hate] an"f.a, [Qal.impf.1.c.s., sane, hate] hw"hy> [pr.n.])?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against You (`jj'Aqt.a, [Hithpael.impf.1.c.s., qut, to loathe] ^ym,m.Aqt.biW [conj.w/prep.w/Hithpael.pt.m.p.w/2.m.s.sf., qum])?

VERSE 22 I hate them with the utmost hatred (~ytianEf. [Qal.pf.1.c.s.w/3.m.p.sf., shane, hate] tylik.T; [n.f.s.cstr., takhelith, end, perfection; "utmost"] ha'n>fi [n.f.s., sine-ah, hatred]);

They have become my enemies (Wyh' [Qal.pf.3.c.p, hayah, be, become] ~ybiy>Aal. [prep.w/Qal.pt.m.p., ayabh, be hostile] `yli [prep.w/1.c.s.sf.]).

VERSE 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart (ynIreq.x' [Qal.imper.w/1.c.s.sf., chaqar, search, examine, probe] lae [n.m.s.] [d;w> [conj.w/Qal.imper., yadha, know] ybib'l. [n.m.s.w/1.c.s.sf., lebh, heart]);

Try me and know my anxious thoughts (ynInEx'B. [Qal.imper.1.c.s., bachan, examine, try, test] [d;w> [conj.w/Qal.imper., yadha, know] `yP'[;r>f; [n.m.p.w/1.c.p.sf., sare-aph, anxious thoughts; 2X: Ps.94:19]);

VERSE 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me (haer>W [conj.w/Qal.imper., ra-ah, see] bc,[o-%r,D,-~ai [adv. + n.m.s., derek, way, + n.m.s., otsebh, pain, sorrow; "hurtful"] yBi [prep.w/1.c.s.sf., "in me"]),

And lead me in the everlasting way (ynIxen>W [conj.w/Qal.imper.w/1.c.s.sf., nachah, lead] %r,d,B. [prep.w/n.m.s., derek, way] `~l'A[ [n.m.s., olam, ever; "everlasting"]).

ANALYSIS: VERSES 19-24

  1. The fourth stanza marks an abrupt change in tone.
  2. The very clarity of the vision of the Omniscient God makes the anomaly of evil men, boasting in the full view of God (v.20), intolerable.
  3. The last two verses of this stanza serve to emphasize the continuity of what has gone before.
  4. All the preceding material proves to be the prelude to a more direct protestation of innocence in vv.19-22.
  5. David now turns on the enemies of God in profound vexation of spirit.
  6. He can rightly call upon God to "kill the wicked".
  7. His appeal reveals that he does not identify himself with such as those who are utterly opposed to Godís moral and spiritual purposes.
  8. The appeal of v.19a is based on what he knows God knows to be the facts and based on Godís perfect Righteousness and Justice.
  9. The "wicked" are spiritual and moral criminals operating outside the law of God.
  10. Their lifestyles make them targets for temporal and eternal wrath.
  11. Their stubborn refusal to come to a change of mind is the basis for his appeal.
  12. Davidís prayer is directed towards those who are negative and who are not willing under any circumstances to turn to God.
  13. David had personal exposure to such types within Israel and among the nations.
  14. He prays for temporal judgment upon all haters of God.
  15. He felt the pressure of living in a world filled with such men who were an affront to the +R of the Omnipresent and Omniscient God.
  16. The term used for God is Eloah, occurring 39 times in the OT, of which 27 instances occur in Job.
  17. This noun is of Aramaic derivation.
  18. The wicked of the earth eventually come under the SUD.
  19. Sometimes whole societies perish under Godís wrath.
  20. At the time of the end Christ will eliminate the wicked of the earth (Isa.11:4; 13:11; 29:5,11).
  21. In v.19b David briefly departs from his direct address to God.
  22. In this line he further defines the wicked as "men of bloodshed".
  23. This category of the wicked he wants nothing to do with, hence his direct address that all such men remove themselves from his company (cp. Pss.6:8).
  24. God hates those who resort to violence to get ahead (Ps.11:5).
  25. Such men lived with the nation of Israel (Ps.74:20).
  26. We are not to envy such men, but avoid their ways (Prov.3:31).
  27. What they enjoy is the product of unjust gain (Prov.4:17).
  28. They entice others into a life of crime (Prov.16:29).
  29. Their refusal to act in accordance with justice is their undoing (Prov.21:7).
  30. Violence for gain is the constant preoccupation of such men (Prov.24:2).
  31. God appeals to such types to repent (Jonah.3:8).
  32. God does not desire the destruction of the wicked, but they usually leave Him no recourse (Ezek.18:23).
  33. In the day of Noah the earth "was filled with violence" (Gen.6:11,13).
  34. God never violates +R and J (Job.37:23).
  35. Such types come under the boomerang effect (Ps.7:16).
  36. The category of wicked that David has specifically in mind are men who employ violence to gain power and wealth (Prov.11:16).
  37. History has been jam-packed with this category of the wicked.
  38. David had no dealings with known criminals within or outside the nation of Israel.
  39. David made it clear that he wanted nothing to do with such men (v.19b).
  40. It is worth noting that Davidís resolve was not necessarily easy, since the unscrupulous can be convenient allies, and scoffers can be daunting opponents.
  41. He made an effort to eliminate such men from society (Ps.101).
  42. The West continues to deal with criminals who oppress their subject populations and have aggressive designs on their neighbors.
  43. This is a major indictment against the US in Bible prophecy (Rev.18:24).
  44. In v.20 he mentions the verbal assault upon God by these men.
  45. Such men hate the righteous and verbally assault their God and their belief system (cp. Jude.15).
  46. All such talk is an exercise in futility, as their words, while impressive, cannot overturn Godís purposes (Isa.25:4,5).
  47. He was aware of their public attacks and threats against the people of God.
  48. All such attacks were an attack upon God and constituted a violation of the third commandment (Ex.20:7a), which prohibits using Godís name "in vain".
  49. There are a variety of manifestations of this sin.
  50. Those who do so will be held accountable (Ex.20:7b).
  51. It would include anything from frivolous talk about God to blasphemy.
  52. False oath taking is another example of violation of this commandment.
  53. He asserts that he shares Godís attitude toward the morally and spiritually repugnant in v.21.
  54. His assertion is presented in the form of a rhetorical question.
  55. He asks Yahweh to bear witness to his righteous revulsion of all the God-haters "who rise up against" Him (v.21).
  56. To hate and loathe the wicked and their ways is to be God-like.
  57. We are not sinning when we regard people as God regards them.
  58. Certainly we desire that men everywhere repent.
  59. But at the same time we are to regard the wicked with abhorrence, as God does.
  60. However, we are not to treat negative types badly unless the situation calls for it.
  61. Davidís relationship to the wicked is restated in no uncertain terms in v.22.
  62. Especially those who assault the WOG by word and deed we are to detest to the max.
  63. David reserves his "utmost hatred" for those who attack the POG without conscience.
  64. Scoffers, by their very activity, "have become" Davidís "enemies".
  65. He has absolutely no tolerance for those who oppress people and who engage in verbal assaults upon the truth of BD.
  66. David does not confine his attack to the evil around him. He faces the latent evil within him (vv.23,24).
  67. Recognizing the evil that is manifest in his enemies, he is acutely aware of the propensity to evil that lurks within him (IOSN).
  68. The apostle Paul struggled with the evil within (Rom.7:18).
  69. The issue is whether or not the believer allows the STA to reign over his/her life, negating Ph2 sanctification (Rom.6:12).
  70. The ISTA exerts a constant pressure upon the soul to conform to its desires (1Pet.2:11).
  71. The positive believer must take precautionary measures with respect to the lust pattern (Rom.13:14).
  72. The measures include consistent intake of BD, prayer, and separation from evil.
  73. Davidís concern was that he not be guilty of the very things he condemned in others.
  74. He prays to God that he not be given over to the judgment of self-delusion, but that God lay bare the true condition of his heart.
  75. This psalm opened with recognition that God had kept regular tabs on his soul at all times (vv.1ff).
  76. Here he specifically asks God to "search me".
  77. In v.23a he asks God to collect the information by doing a scan on his heart to find out what is in fact there (Ps.26:2).
  78. Omniscience cannot but know the motivations and thoughts of the heart at all times (Job.7:18; Ps.11:4,5; Jer.11:20).
  79. In this petition David eagerly welcomes divine scrutiny.
  80. David has nothing to hide and wants God to thoroughly investigate his spiritual condition with a view to making it apparent to him.
  81. In v.23b he continues the plea using the verb for assaying metals (Prov.17:3; Jer.6:27).
  82. He wants God to examine him and to know everything about him.
  83. What he hopes is the outcome of the examination is that he will "come forth as gold" (Job.23:10).
  84. He desires that there be found nothing that would indict him as a mature positive believer (Ps.17:3).
  85. Godís continuous evaluation is the basis for His dealings with us (Jer.17:10).
  86. David recognizes that he is not perfect, as indicated by the expression "anxious thoughts".
  87. But an ore sample does not have to be free from dross to be high-grade.
  88. David knows that he has moments of anxiety.
  89. This is a common STA occurrence in believers (cp. Ps.94:19).
  90. However, we are to apply the directive of Phil.4:6: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God".
  91. Here, as in Job, there is no claim to moral perfection.
  92. This is not necessary when making a claim to blamelessness.
  93. David was often the target of false blame.
  94. Paul knew the pressure of such maligning and took refuge in Godís fair judgment and protested his integrity: "but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our hearts" (1Thess.2:4; cf. 2Cor.11:11; Gal.1:20).
  95. David is not presumptuous; he recognizes that there might be something that, for whatever reason, he has not taken stock of, and so he prays that God would bring to his attention "any hurtful way in me" (v.24a).
  96. He recognizes that the STA activity is often not an isolated incident, but that it can bring harm to others.
  97. He does not want to be a source of pain and misery to others.
  98. The things you do impact upon others for good or for bad.
  99. He wants to be as free from such activities as it is possible to be.
  100. His closing request is that God will continue "to lead me in the everlasting way" (v.24b).
  101. This exact expression for continuing in the sacred teachings and traditions of the Yahweh faith occurs only here.
  102. A variety of other expressions communicate the same thought (Pss.5:8; 143:10; Prov.10:17).
  103. And so he prays for divine guidance for the balance of his life so that he may not stray from the straight and narrow.
  104. Only in this way can he avoid becoming like those he so detests.
  105. He must at all times stay alert to the malignant power within (STA).
  106. He welcomes constant exposure to divine scrutiny (cf. Heb.4:13).
  107. He knows that God knows all at all times, and he desires that God will protect him from his worst enemy Ė his OSN.
END: PSALM ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-NINE
JACK M. BALLINGER
JUNE 2, 1998
© Copyright 1998, Maranatha Church, Inc.