Biblical Commentary
(Bible study)

Psalm 119



My usual practice when writing the commentary for a Biblical passage is to treat each verse or phrase individually––albeit with an introduction to help the reader appreciate the context.  Where needed, I include verses that the lectionary skipped.

But writing the commentary for this passage was a challenge due to the length of the psalm––176 verses in all––the longest psalm in the psalter.  The lectionary simplifies that by using only 56 verses (7 stanzas of 8 verses each)––still quite lengthy.

The psalm is quite repetitive, so I will begin with considerable detail, but the detail will taper off as I encounter increasing repetition.

Psalm 119 is an alphabetical acrostic poem––organized in 22 stanzas according to the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet from Aleph through Tav.  The equivalent alphabet in the New Testament, which is written in Greek, would be Alpha and Omega (see Revelation 1:8; 21:6, 13).  The equivalent in English would be A to Z.

Each of the 22 stanzas has 8 verses.  22 (stanzas) x 8 (verses) = 176, which is the total number of verses in this psalm.  ALEPH is verses 1-8.  BET is verses 9-16.  And so forth.

Throughout this psalm, the psalmist speaks of following God’s law––not as a burdensome discipline but as a saving grace.  He uses many synonyms for law, to include statutes, ways, precepts, commandments, and judgments (and that’s just the Aleph stanza).

This celebration of God’s law reminds me of Psalm 19:7-14, where the psalmist speaks of God’s law as “perfect, restoring the soul, …sure, making wise the simple, …right, rejoicing the heart, pure, enlightening the eyes, …true and righteous altogether.”  Then comes the over-the-top part, where the psalmist says that God’s ordinances are “more to be desired than gold, yes, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the extract of the honeycomb.”

The psalmist justifies his extreme words by saying, “by them (God’s laws) is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  That raises a question:  Would you better served by much fine gold or by an ethical system designed to help you avoid the perils, potholes, and temptations that cripple so many people?

As I am writing this commentary (2019) The U.S. is dealing with two public scandals:

  • The first is the MeToo movement that is exposing improper and abusive sexual behavior of men toward women.
  • The second has to do with wealthy parents––most of them celebrities or highly placed executives––who paid a “fixer” large sums of money to alter test scores or to provide false credentials to help their children gain admission to top-ranked schools.

In both scandals, people have been found guilty of breaking laws.  They are being publicly humiliated.  Many are losing jobs and/or going to jail.

They all had much fine gold, but lacked an adequate moral compass.  Their fine gold and its attendant power tempted them to use that advantage to obtain sex under duress–– or to use unlawful methods to gain special access for their children.

I’m sure that all of them are regretting the consequences they are now experiencing.  I suspect that many of them are wondering how this could have happened to them.  Few have probably come to the point where they understand that God’s laws are “more to be desired than gold, yes, even much fine gold.”  But faithfulness to God’s laws would have saved them from much pain.

PSALM 119:1-8.  ALEPH

“Blessed (Hebrew: ‘eser) are those whose ways (Hebrew: derek)  are blameless,
who walk
(Hebrew: halak) according to Yahweh’s law” (Hebrew: torah)  (v. 1).

The word ‘eser (blessed) is the equivalent of the New Testament Greek word makarios (blessed), which is found repeatedly in Jesus’ Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11).  Some would translate both ‘eser and makarios as happy, and both words imply happiness.  However, we use happy more broadly, often in ways that contradict the Biblical meaning of the word blessed.

Being blessed, as that word is used in this verse, suggests two things:

  • The first is the joy of a life that is on track––a life moving in a soul-satisfying direction––a life that has not been derailed by bad choices.
  • The second is a joy that goes beyond the cause and effect relationship of good choices and good outcomes (although good outcomes are part of that joy). Being blessed is a gift from God––a gift that confers centeredness and self-assurance.

The word derek (ways) is used metaphorically to mean the pathway a person is following––the direction of his or her  life.  The pathway might be good or evil.  The person might choose to walk in the light or in the dark.  The pathway might lead to life or death.  But the psalmist says that the outcomes are far from random.  God will insure the blessedness of the person who walk (halak) according to God’s law.

The word halak can be used for the movement of water or wind, but when applied to human movement is usually translated walk.  That walk can be physical, such as a walk along a dusty road, but often, as here, it is metaphorical, meaning a person’s life-journey.

The noun torah means instruction, teaching, or law.  It is often associated with the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Hebrew scriptures, which include history and poetry in addition to law.  While the Israelites often failed to keep the law, they understood its importance––and the consequences of disobedience.

“Blessed are those who keep (Hebrew: nasar) (Yahweh’s) statutes, (Hebrew: ‘edut)
who seek him with their whole heart” (v. 2).

The psalmist promises to nasar (keep or guard) Yahweh’s statutes.  He will not only perform what the statutes require, but will also do what he can to safeguard them for the sake of his community and future generations.

The word ‘edut (statutes) can mean testimony, and was often used to refer to God’s testimony to the Hebrew people as reflected in the Ten Commandments and God’s covenant with the Hebrew people.  Over time, it came to mean laws or precepts.

God’s laws are a channel of blessing to those who seek God with their whole hearts.  As they become more and more aware of those laws and try to keep them faithfully, they come to treasure their relationship with God even more––and are thus blessed.

“Yes, they do nothing wrong. (Hebrew: ‘awel or ‘ewel)
They walk in his ways” (Hebrew: derek) (v. 3).

The word ‘awel or ‘ewel (wrong) means the opposite of just or righteous.  It involves following the wrong pathway and making sinful decisions.  The person is blessed who avoids these behaviors––who instead follows God’s ways (derek––see v. 1 above).

“You have commanded your precepts, (Hebrew: piqqud)
that we should fully obey them” (v. 4).

The word piqqud (precepts) means precept or instruction.  My dictionary defines precept as “a general rule intended to regulate behavior or thought”––and that’s what the psalmist is talking about here.  God’s precepts or laws regulate the behavior of those who love God and commit themselves to obeying God’s will.

“Oh that my ways (derek––see v.1 above) were steadfast (Hebrew: kun)
to obey your statutes!” (Hebrew: ‘edut––see v. 2 above) (v. 5).

The word kun (steadfast) means steadfast, resolute, or unwavering.

The psalmist is wishing that his paths were always unwavering––committed to obeying God’s statutes.

Unwavering devotion isn’t what most of us experience day by day.  We have many claims on our lives (family, school, work, friends, hobbies, sports, entertainment)––and many temptations to stray from the straight and narrow pathway that leads to life (see Matthew 7:13-14).

Even great Christians have trouble maintaining their spiritual focus.  Martin Luther watched his dog sitting near the dinner table, and said:

“Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat!
All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat.
Otherwise he has no thought, wish or hope.”

“Then I wouldn’t be disappointed, (Hebrew: bos)
when I consider all of your commandments” (Hebrew: miswa) (v. 6).

The word bos (disappointed) would be better translated shamed or humiliated. Even in our day, we find it extremely painful to experience shame or humiliation.  Police conduct “perp walks,” escorting an accused perpetrator through a cordon of photographers and onlookers as a way of shaming the perpetrator.  Seeing instills fear in us––causes us to determine never to let that happen to us.  It’s the modern “civilized” equivalent of posting the severed heads of criminals on pikes in a public setting.

Honor and shame are significant values in any culture, but especially in the Middle East.  People lived in extended families and small communities where everyone knew everyone else––where there were few secrets––where a shamed person would have nowhere to hide.

In Biblical times, honor was a virtue associated primarily with men, defining their identity and self-worth.  Honor enhanced a man’s influence.  People would pay attention when a man of honor spoke.

Shame was the absence of honor––the absence of good reputation, influence, and power.

God’s miswa (commandments) have their roots in God’s holiness.  God is holy, and wants his people to be holy.  God gave his commandments to his people as a way to enable them to move towards holiness.  While Paul emphasized that Christians were no longer obligated to observe Jewish commandments (Galatians 3:25), he also acknowledged that the Jewish law was our paidagogos (schoolmaster or guardian) until such time as Jesus Christ made it possible to be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).  It was a faithful guide for its time.

We Christians have commandments that we need to observe.  When a scribe asked Jesus what he considered to be the greatest commandment, Jesus answered:

“The greatest is, ‘Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one:
you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.’
This is the first commandment.

The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:29-31).

Jesus also pointed to particular kinds of Godly behavior, such as taking care of a wounded man, and said, “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).

“I will give thanks to you with uprightness (Hebrew: yoser) of heart,
when I learn your righteous (Hebrew: sedeq) judgments” (Hebrew: mispat) (v. 7).

The word yoser (uprightness) means upright, which my dictionary defines as honorable, honest, reputable, and virtuous.  The image that word creates is of a person standing tall, not avoiding problems, not fearing people, and unafraid of confronting whatever comes.

The psalmist is able to give God thanks with uprightness of heart, because he is aware that God renders righteous (sedeq) judgments (mispat).

The word sedeq (righteous) has to do with meeting high ethical standards.  The word mispat (judgments) has to do with legal decisions.

Righteous judgments are the bedrock on which healthy civilizations are founded.  We are familiar with stories of judges rendering judgments that hurt innocent people––or set free guilty people.  Sometimes that has to do with incompetence, but more often the judge has a hidden agenda, such as waning to please a powerful person.

But the psalmist has observed the righteousness Yahweh’s judgments, and that gives the psalmist confidence to walk with uprightness of heart.

“I will observe your statutes.  (Hebrew: hoq)
Don’t utterly forsake (Hebrew: ‘azab) me” (v. 8).

The word hoq (statutes) means law or decree as established by Yahweh, a human ruler, or cultural norms.  It is a different word from ‘edut (statutes) which is used in verses 2 and 5.  In this lengthy psalm, the psalmist uses many almost synonymous words to enhance the poetic nature of his writing.

The word ‘azab (forsake) means to leave, abandon, or forsake.  It involves creating a separation between two persons or entities.  The psalmist is promising to obey Yahweh’s laws, and prays that Yahweh will not abandon him.

PSALM 119:9-16.  BET

“How can a young man keep (Hebrew: nasar) his way pure? (Hebrew: zakah)
By living according to your word” (Hebrew” dabar) (v. 9).

To nasar (keep) Yahweh’s law means to obey and safeguard it.

This addresses a burning issue for young men (and young women)––saturated with hormones designed to promote procreation.  This is especially important in first world nations where young people need to spend years preparing for their life work––and where extended families are seldom able to provide substantial help with grandchildren.  For young people, delayed gratification can pave the road to a bright future.  Not following Godly standards of sexuality often spells poverty for the couple––and especially for their children.

But those are practical considerations––important, but surely not what the psalmist has in mind.  The word zakah (pure) means clean or pure.  In Biblical usage, zakah means being clean in a religious sense––free from sin––faithful to Torah law.

The idea of clean versus unclean has its roots in the Torah, where God specified in great detail what was and was not clean with regard to food, bodily emissions, leprosy, and other things.  While “clean” was often used with regard to ritual practices, it was also used with regard to a person’s behavior, as it is in this verse.

Maintaining purity requires self-discipline rooted in faith.  Leading a pure life is especially difficult today, because our world has become increasingly secular and hostile to Christianity.  Most people have no faith to steady them––no understanding of God’s word.  They do have belief systems, but those are increasing shaped by the entertainment industry––or celebrities––or various authorities––or peers.  Those belief systems aren’t concerned with helping young people maintain their purity.  In fact, the opposite is true.

Purity isn’t an easy path.  But Jesus warns:

“Enter in by the narrow gate;
for wide is the gate and broad is the way
that leads to destruction,
and many are those who enter in by it.

How narrow is the gate, and restricted
is the way that leads to life!
Few are those who find it”
(Matthew 7:13-14).

Young people aren’t the only ones subject to powerful temptations.  For many people, sex continues as a great tempter until age or infirmity tamp down the fires.  Even for wealthy people, money continues as a tempter regardless of their lack of need.

We can maintain our purity, sexual, financial, and otherwise, by living according to God’s dabar (word).

The word dabar can mean a spoken or written word.  God spoke directly to Moses and the prophets, but also gave Israel the Ten Commandments, which Israel knew as the Ten Words.

God’s word is powerful.  In the creation, “God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).  It is trustworthy.  If we needs something to guide us––a north star to lead us home––God’s word can do that.  It is redemptive, guiding us around life’s potholes and offering us a way back when we have strayed.

 “With my whole heart, (Hebrew: leb) I have sought you” (v. 10a).   We use the word heart to mean (1) the physical organ or (2) the seat of our emotions.  The Israelites used the word leb (heart) in the same ways.  The psalmist is saying that he has sought Yahweh with his whole being.

The psalmist isn’t promising to seek Yahweh, but is stating that he has done so.  He bases his appeal on what he has already done––not on promises of what he will do in the future.

Don’t let me wander (Hebrew:  sagah) from your commandments” (Hebrew: miswa) (v. 10b).

The word sagah (wander) means to stray or wander.  The psalmist believes that he has done well in the past, but understands that he needs Yahweh’s help to stay the journey––to continue on the right path.

For the meaning of miswa (commandments), see verse 6 above.

“I have hidden (Hebrew: sapan) your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you”
(v. 11).

The word sapan means hidden or concealed, but it also means stored up, which would be a better translation here.  The psalmist is not saying that he is hiding God’s word so that no one can see or hear it.  He is saying that he has stored up God’s word in his heart to protect him from the tempter’s wiles.

Storing God’s word in our hearts is a good survival strategy.  We never know when life will throw us a curve that we couldn’t have anticipated––a brutal blow from which we will struggle to recover.  When that happens, the spiritual resources we have stored in our hearts can help us to find our feet again.

“Blessed (Hebrew: barak) are you, Yahweh.
Teach me your statutes”
(v. 12).

The word barak (bless) is usually used for:

  • For a person to bless God, i.e., to kneel before God––to show deference or obeisance.
  • Or for God to confer a blessing upon a person or people.

As the psalmist uses barak in this verse, I believe that he is expressing a sentiment similar to that expressed in the hymn, “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.”  He is acknowledging that Yahweh is the source of every blessing.

Having stated that, the psalmist asks Yahweh for a particular blessing––instruction in Yahweh’s statures or commandments.

“With my lips, I have declared all the ordinances of your mouth” (v. 13).  For us, the word lip-service denotes saying one thing but doing another––serving God with our lips but not our lives (see Romans 2:21).

But a type of lip-service––the proclamation of God’s word––is vital to God’s people.  The church was founded on the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached a powerful sermon that persuaded people to confess their sins, to repent, and to be baptized (Acts 2).  Preaching has occupied a central place in the life of the church ever since.  Paul said:

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in him whom they have not heard?
How will they hear without a preacher? (Romans 10:4).

“I have rejoiced in the way of your testimonies, (Hebrew: edut)
as much as in all riches” (v. 14).   For the word edut (testimonies) see verse 2 above.

God’s ordinances are “more to be desired than gold, yes, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the extract of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10).

“I will meditate (Hebrew: siyah) on your precepts, (Hebrew: piqqud)
and consider (Hebrew: nabat) your ways” (Hebrew: derek) (v. 15).

The words siyah (meditate) and nabat (consider) introduce a new, more contemplative approach to God’s precepts and ways.  It is one thing to observe God’s commandments.  It is another to meditate on God’s precepts and to spend time considering God’s ways.  The person who studies God’s laws and spends time letting those laws seep down to the depths of his/her being raises discipleship to a higher level.

As an elementary example, God said, “You shall have no other Gods before me” (Exodus 20:2).

  • The person who refrains from worshiping other Gods can feel that he/she has obeyed that commandment.
  • But the person who meditates on that law will unearth meanings that would not occur to the first person. He/she will understand that anything that usurps God’s first place in our lives constitutes a threat to obedience to this commandment.

For the word derek, see verse 1 above.

For the word piqqud (precepts), see verse 4 above.

“I will delight (Heb. ‘sa’a’) myself in your statutes. (Hebrew: huggah)
I will not forget your word” (Hebrew: dabar) (v. 16).

The word ‘sa’a’ (delight) has several meanings, including to take delight in, which is how it is used here.  For this psalmist, God’s statutes constitute, not a burden, but a joy.  He can take joy in studying them, in the same way that I take joy in studying this psalm.  But more significantly, he can find joy in them because they make it possible for him to know how to please God––and how to live in ways that lead to a solidly rooted life.

The word huggah (statutes) is different from the words ‘edut (see v. 2) and hoq (see v. 8)––both of which are also translated statutes in this translation.  As is true of many of the words used in this psalm, huggah can be translated as statutes, decrees, precepts, commandments, etc.

It is often difficult to distinguish shades of meanings between these Hebrew words.  The psalmist uses many synonyms for God’s statutes to provide variety in a lengthy psalm that celebrates a singular treasure––God’s laws.

For the word dabar (word), see verse 9 above.



 17 Do good to your servant.
I will live and I will obey your word.

 18 Open my eyes,
that I may see wondrous things out of your law.

 19 I am a stranger on the earth.
Don’t hide your commandments from me.

 20 My soul is consumed with longing for your ordinances at all times.

 21 You have rebuked the proud who are cursed,
who wander from your commandments.

 22 Take reproach and contempt away from me,
for I have kept your statutes.

 23 Though princes sit and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your statutes.

24 Indeed your statutes are my delight,
and my counselors.


25 My soul is laid low in the dust.
Revive me according to your word!

26 I declared my ways, and you answered me.
Teach me your statutes.

27 Let me understand the teaching of your precepts!
Then I will meditate on your wondrous works.

28 My soul is weary with sorrow:
strengthen me according to your word.

29 Keep me from the way of deceit.
Grant me your law graciously!

30 I have chosen the way of truth.
I have set your ordinances before me.

31 I cling to your statutes, Yahweh.
Don’t let me be disappointed.

32 I run in the path of your commandments,
for you have set my heart free.

PSALM 119:33-40.  HEY

“Teach me, Yahweh, the way of your statutes. (Hebrew: huggah)
I will keep (Hebrew: nasar) them to the end” (v. 33).

For the word huggah (statutes), see verse 9 above.

The psalmist promises to nasar (keep, observe, guard) Yahweh’s statutes.  The word huggah (keep) means that he will obey the statutes, but also expresses a sense of stewardship.  Yahweh has given these statutes for mankind’s benefit, and the psalmist is promising to guard them––to do what he can to preserve them.

“Give me understanding, (Heb: biyn) and I will keep (Heb: nasar) your law. (Heb: torah)
Yes, I will obey (Hebrew: samar) it with my whole heart” (v. 34).

The verb biyn (understanding) means to discern or understand.  Such discernment or understanding is a gift from God, particularly when it involves the understanding of Godly truth.

For the meaning of torah (law), see verse 1 above.

The word samar (keep) in the last half of this verse repeats the meanings of nasar in the first half (see v. 33 for the meaning of nasar).  The psalmist is promising to watch over Yahweh’s law––to keep it––to guard it.

“Direct me in the path (Hebrew: natib) of your commandments, (Hebrew: torah),
for I delight (Hebrew: hapes) in them” (v. 35).

The word natib (path) can mean any kind of path.  When used metaphorically, as it is here, it refers to the direction one is taking with one’s life.  The psalmist is praying that Yahweh will keep him on the path of Yahweh’s commandments­­––i.e., keep him faithful in his obedience to Yahweh’s commandments.

For the meaning of torah (law), see verse 1 above.

The psalmist hapes (delights) in Yahweh’s commandments.  The word hapes is used in the Bible for a man’s delight in a woman (Genesis 34:19; Esther 2:14)––and the delight Solomon felt at building the temple (1 Kings 9:1).  The psalmist’s delight, therefore, is no mean thing, but is instead a pleasure that goes to the core of his being.

The Hebrew language has a several words that mean delight (hasaq, rason, no’am, sa’a’), and this psalmist uses them freely (vv. 1, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174).

“Turn my heart (Hebrew: leb) toward your statutes, (Hebrew: ‘edut)
not toward selfish gain” (Hebrew: besa’) (v. 36).

For the word leb (heart) see verse 10a above.

For the word ‘edut (statues), see v. 2 above.

The word besa’ (selfish gain) suggests dishonest or selfish gain.

While great men of faith were sometimes wealthy (Abraham, David, and Solomon), Jewish law carried a number of provisions limiting predatory behaviors:

  • It forbade charging interest to fellow Jews (Exodus 22:25; Deuteronomy 23:19).
  • It prohibited the owners of vineyards from gleaning after the first harvest.
  • Employers were required to pay workers each day (Deuteronomy 24:15).
  • They were required to leave a portion for aliens, orphans, and widows (Deuteronomy 24:21).

The prophets spoke harsh words to those who enjoyed prosperity at the expense of the less fortunate (Amos 1:13-15; 2:6-8).

“Turn my eyes away from looking at worthless things” (Hebrew: saw’) (v. 37a).  The word saw’ (worthless things) has a variety of meanings, which have at their root the idea of falsehood or false values.  We are tempted to chase honors or material things that fail to satisfy our deepest needs.  God asked:

“Why do you spend money
for that which is not bread?
And your labor
for that which doesn’t satisfy?”  (Isaiah 55:2a).

God offered this alternative:

“Listen diligently to me,
and eat you that which is good,
and let your soul
delight itself in fatness” (Isaiah 55:2b).

I think of that verse when I make my annual visit to a mall.  The surfeit of unnecessary and even frivolous things staggers me.  While everything is bright and shiny, I feel like I am drowning in excess––swimming in a spiritual cesspool.  The tragedy is that many mall visitors buy things they don’t need and can’t afford to impress people whose affections they will never obtain––and in doing so compromise their financial futures.  They are barking up the wrong tree.  They are climbing a ladder that is leaning against the wrong wall.

“Revive me in your ways” (v. 37b).  A more literal translation would be “Give me life in your ways.”

“Fulfill your promise to your servant,
that you may be feared”
(Hebrew: yir’ah) (v. 38).

The noun yir’ah is related to the verb yare’ (to fear, respect, or reverence) and the adjective yare’ (fearful or afraid)––and means fear, respect, or reverence.  Revered is probably the best choice here.

My first response to this verse was puzzlement.  Why must the psalmist ask Yahweh to fulfill his promise.  But then I remembered the plight of faithful people, for whom Job must be the patron saint, whose faithfulness has not been rewarded, at least in ways that we would recognize.  We have all experienced unanswered prayers, or at least prayers that weren’t answered in the ways that we wanted.  We all need a blessing from God to assure us that we have not believed in vain.

Or the psalmist may be asking Yahweh to fulfill his promise to the psalmist so someone else, seeing the blessing, will come to revere Yahweh.

“Take away my disgrace (Hebrew: herpah) that I dread,
for your ordinances are good”
(v. 39).

The word herpah (disgrace) means reproach or scorn, both of which the psalmist mentioned feeling in verse 22 (above).  I prefer reproach instead of disgrace in this verse.  The psalmist is apparently being reproached for his association with Yahweh’s ordinances, which he notes “are good.”

While I’m not certain why this psalmist is experiencing reproach, I am reminded of a recent visit to Taylor University by Vice-President Pence (May 18, 2019).  He warned Christian students that “it’s become acceptable, even fashionable, to malign traditional Christian beliefs.”  He challenged Christian students to “stand up (and) be prepared to face opposition.”

“Behold, I long for your precepts!” (Hebrew: piqqud) (v. 40a)

For the meaning of piqquad (precepts), see verse 4 above.

Revive me in your righteousness” (Hebrew:  sedaqah) (v. 40b).

Righteousness (Hebrew: sedaqah) is one of the defining attributes of Yahweh’s character.  Yahweh’s righteousness is reflected in his covenant faithfulness.

For the Godly person, personal righteousness (sedaqah) is life lived in accord with ethical principles –– life lived in accord with God’s law and God’s will.  Right behavior is a natural outgrown of a right relationship with God––the ultimate righteous one.



41 Let your loving kindness also come to me, Yahweh,
your salvation, according to your word.

42 So I will have an answer for him who reproaches me,
for I trust in your word.

43 Don’t snatch the word of truth out of my mouth,
for I put my hope in your ordinances.

44 So I will obey your law continually,
forever and ever.

45 I will walk in liberty,
for I have sought your precepts.

46 I will also speak of your statutes before kings,
and will not be disappointed.

47 I will delight myself in your commandments,
because I love them.

48 I reach out my hands for your commandments, which I love.
I will meditate on your statutes.


49 Remember your word to your servant,
because you gave me hope.

 50 This is my comfort in my affliction,
for your word has revived me.

 51 The arrogant mock me excessively,
but I don’t swerve from your law.

 52 I remember your ordinances of old, Yahweh,
and have comforted myself.

53 Indignation has taken hold on me,
because of the wicked who forsake your law.

 54 Your statutes have been my songs,

in the house where I live.

55 I have remembered your name, Yahweh, in the night,
and I obey your law.

56 This is my way,
that I keep your precepts.


57 Yahweh is my portion.
I promised to obey your words.

58 I sought your favor with my whole heart.
Be merciful to me according to your word.

 59 I considered my ways,
and turned my steps to your statutes.

60 I will hurry, and not delay,
to obey your commandments.

61 The ropes of the wicked bind me,
but I won’t forget your law.

62 At midnight I will rise to give thanks to you,
because of your righteous ordinances.

63 I am a friend of all those who fear you,
of those who observe your precepts.

64 The earth is full of your loving kindness, Yahweh.
Teach me your statutes.



65 Do good to your servant,
according to your word, Yahweh.

66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
for I believe in your commandments.

67 Before I was afflicted, I went astray;
but now I observe your word.

68 You are good, and do good.
Teach me your statutes.

69 The proud have smeared a lie upon me.
With my whole heart, I will keep your precepts.

70 Their heart is as callous as the fat,
but I delight in your law.

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes.

72 The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver.



73 Your hands have made me and formed me.
Give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments.

74 Those who fear you will see me and be glad,
because I have put my hope in your word.

75 Yahweh, I know that your judgments are righteous,
that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.

76 Please let your loving kindness be for my comfort,
according to your word to your servant.

77 Let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live;
for your law is my delight.

78 Let the proud be disappointed, for they have overthrown me wrongfully.
I will meditate on your precepts.

79 Let those who fear you turn to me.
They will know your statutes.

80 Let my heart be blameless toward your decrees,
that I may not be disappointed.



81 My soul faints for your salvation.
I hope in your word.

82 My eyes fail for your word.
I say, “When will you comfort me?”

83 For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke.
I don’t forget your statutes.

84 How many are the days of your servant?
When will you execute judgment on those who persecute me?

85 The proud have dug pits for me,
contrary to your law.

86 All of your commandments are faithful.
They persecute me wrongfully.
Help me!

87 They had almost wiped me from the earth,
but I didn’t forsake your precepts.

88 Preserve my life according to your loving kindness,
so I will obey the statutes of your mouth.



89 Yahweh, your word is settled in heaven forever.

90 Your faithfulness is to all generations.
You have established the earth, and it remains.

91 Your laws remain to this day,
for all things serve you.

92 Unless your law had been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.

93 I will never forget your precepts,
for with them, you have revived me.

94 I am yours.
Save me, for I have sought your precepts.

95 The wicked have waited for me, to destroy me.
I will consider your statutes.

96 I have seen a limit to all perfection,
but your commands are boundless.

PSALM 119:97-104.  MEM

“How I love your law!” (Hebrew: torah)

For the meaning of torah (law), see verse 1 above.

“It is my meditation (Hebrew: siyhah) all day” (v. 97).   The word siyhah means meditation or reflection.  The psalmist so loves Yahweh’s law that he meditates on it all day.

That might seem like hyperbole (exaggeration for effect)––or even obsessive-compulsive behavior––but it isn’t necessarily either one.  Many people feel such a calling for their work that they devote nearly every waking hour to it.  Why shouldn’t the psalmist feel that way about Yahweh’s law, which Yahweh intended to order our lives in a way that would minimize pain and maximize joy?

“Your commandments (Hebrew: miswa) make me wiser than my enemies,
for your commandments are always with me”
(v. 98).    

For the meaning of miswa (commandments), see verse 6 above.

The psalmist loves Yahweh’s commandments because they make him wiser than his enemies.  Consider the value of that.  What tycoon wouldn’t pay dearly to outthink his competition?  What general wouldn’t prize information that would allow him to defeat his enemy?  What sixth grader wouldn’t covet something that would give him an edge over the playground bully?

The psalmist notes that Yahweh’s commandments are always with him.  That wouldn’t be true of his lawyer.  It wouldn’t be true of his psychiatrist.  It wouldn’t be true even of his sidekick.  For the person who has studied Yahweh’s commandments, they remain on-call just below the surface, ready to be accessed any day or hour of the day––a ready and dependable guide.

“I have more understanding (Hebrew: sakal) than all my teachers,
for your testimonies
(‘edut) are my meditation” (Hebrew: siyhah) (v. 99).

The word sakal (understanding) carries the sense of prudence and insight.  The psalmist is making an outrageous statement for a culture that held teachers in very high regard.  Teachers are expected to be discerning, so they can impart discernment to their students.  Students are expected to respect and obey their teachers.

But the greatest of all teachers was not an imminent rabbi, but Yahweh himself.  Yahweh’s commandments communicated Godly wisdom to those who immersed themselves in them.  The psalmist could justify his outrageous claim to have more understanding than his human teachers, because he was learning directly from Yahweh’s commandments.

For the meaning of ‘edut (testimonies), see verse 2 above.

For the meaning of siyhah (meditation), see verse 97 above.

“I understand (Hebrew: biyn) more than the aged, (Hebrew: zaqen)
because I have kept your precepts” (v. 100).    

This is another outrageous statement.  The psalmist is not only superior in understanding to his teachers, but also to his zaqen (elders)––men revered for their wisdom.

In the Old Testament a good deal of authority was invested in older people, who were assumed to have gained wisdom through experience.  Moses delegated authority to seventy elders to adjudicate disputes (Exodus 3:16; 18:17-27).

The New Testament continues to assign significant responsibilities to men designated as elders (presbyteros)­­––older people whose maturity and experience fit them for leadership.

Much the same is true today.  We assume that young people have lots of energy and creativity––and are more willing to take risks to accomplish great things.  But we also assume that older people are more likely to be wise and prudent.  We fill most positions of trust with middle-aged and older people.

But the psalmist claims to biyn (discern or understand) more than his elders.  How can he justify such a claim?  He justifies it by saying that he has kept Yahweh’s precepts.

Faithfulness to God does impart wisdom.  To be faithful, we first have to study God’s word to know what he would have us to do.  Then, each time we act faithfully, we gain a bit of character and wisdom that will strengthen us for the next time.  The opposite is true for those who act unfaithfully.  The faithful person, then, quickly gains in wisdom over the unfaithful .  Therefore age is less the final determinant of wisdom than faithfulness to God’s precepts.

“I have kept my feet from every evil way,
that I might observe
(Hebrew: samar) your word” (v. 101).  The word samar (observe) has a number of meanings.  The ones most applicable here are to keep, preserve, or guard.  The psalmist has avoided evil so that he could keep or preserve Yahweh’s word.

There is a message here for us.  We can be effective witnesses to our faith only when we resist the many temptations that life throws our way.

“I have not turned aside from your ordinances, (Hebrew: mispat)
for you have taught (Hebrew: yarah) me” (v. 102).

The word mispat means judgment, justice, or legal decision.  God’s law provides very specific guidance with regard to just behavior.  It requires witnesses to be honest and impartial (Exodus 23:1-3, 6-8).  It requires special consideration for widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people (Deuteronomy 24:17).  While Israel is always tempted to define its service to God by the performance of cultic duties (ritual sacrifice, Sabbath observance, etc.), the prophets remind them that justice is a basic duty of the faith community (Micah 6:8).

The psalmist has been faithful to Yahweh’s mispat (ordinance, judgments, justice) because Yahweh has yarah (taught) him.  The word yarah has two basic meanings.  The first is to shoot or throw.  The second is to teach or instruct.  It is used here in the latter sense.

God teaches people in many ways:

  • In some cases, God speaks directly to their hearts.
  • The scriptures include a great deal of instruction,.
  • The scriptures include many stories, each of which has an instructive purpose.
  • God instructs us in our worship.
  • God puts us in contact with fellow believers whose faith strengthens ours.
  • God instructs us through the beauty and power of nature.

“How sweet are your promises to my taste,
more than honey to my mouth!”
(v. 103).    

See the comments on Psalm 19:7-14 in the Introduction above.

“Through your precepts, (Heb: piqqud) I get understanding; (Heb: biyn)
therefore I hate (Heb. sane) every false way” (v. 104).

For the meaning of piqqud, see verse 7 above.

For the meaning of biyn (understanding) see verse 34 above.

The word sane (hate) is the opposite of love.  It can suggest extreme hostility––the kind of hostility a person might have for a deadly enemy.  However, it is also used to express milder dislike.  Jacob loved Rachel, but Leah was unloved (sane).

Christians are called to love their neighbor (Matthew 22:39) and even their enemy (Matthew 5:44), so it is not appropriate for Christians to hate people.  However, it is entirely appropriate to hate evil––false ways.

PSALM 119:105-112.  NUN

“Your word (Hebrew: dabar) is a lamp to my feet,
and a light for my path”
(v. 105).

For the meaning of dabar (word), see verse 9 above.

The meaning here will be plain to anyone who has had to stumble through darkness, straining to avoid obstacles that might cause injury.  In that circumstance, even a light can seem like a lifesaver.

Spiritually, that light is God’s word.  That word shines a light at our feet to help us to avoid the perils of daily life––the temptations that would cause us to fall.  God’s word includes stories from which we can derive guidance––memorable stories that can come to mind when we most need them.  It includes both general principles (Love your neighbor) and specifics (Don’t steal).  If we know God’s word, it will shine a light on our pathway to save us from danger.

“I have sworn (Hebrew: saba’), and have confirmed (Hebrew: qum) it,
that I will obey your righteous ordinances”
(Hebrew: mispat) (v. 106).

The word saba’ means to swear or to take an oath.  The scriptures take oaths seriously.

  • Taking an oath by God’s name obligates the person to keep that oath (Leviticus 19:12).
  • Swearing falsely to defraud a person requires restoration at twenty percent above the original amount (Leviticus 6:3ff.).
  • Even though women in that time and place had little authority, if a woman took an oath, it would stand unless the husband or father expressed immediate disapproval (Numbers 30:1ff.).
  • Jesus prohibited taking oaths (Matthew 5:34-37).

The word qum has many meanings, but they begin with the idea of arising or standing.  The psalmist has stood up for God’s law––has confirmed it––has made his support clear.

For the meaning of mispat (ordinances), see verse 7 above.

“I am afflicted (Hebrew: ‘anah) very much.
Revive me, Yahweh, according to your word”
(Hebrew: dabar) (v. 107).

The word ‘anah means afflicted, oppressed, or humiliated.  In Biblical usage, such affliction was usually imposed by an outside force, such as an enemy.  However, Ezra proclaimed a fast so that the Israelites would humble (‘anah) themselves in preparation for a safe journey (Ezra 8:21).

A more literal translation of the second part of this verse would be “Give me life through your word.”

It seems ironic that, having pronounced Yahweh’s word as a lamp to his feet and swearing to obey Yahweh’s commandments, that the psalmist would be in such pain.  But then I remember Saint Theresa, a great Christian of the sixteenth century. On one of her journeys, she found herself in the middle of nowhere, pelted by rain and stuck in the mud. Finally, in her frustration, she cried out:

“God, if this is the way you treat your friends,
no wonder you don’t have many!”

“Accept, I beg you, the willing offerings of my mouth. (Hebrew: peh)
Yahweh, teach me your ordinances” (Heb. mispat) (v. 108).

The word peh means mouth, but is also used of speech.  The NRSV and others translate it in this verse as praise, and that seems legitimate.  The psalmist is asking Yahweh to accept his offerings of praise.

In addition to asking Yahweh to accept his praise, the psalmist asks Yahweh to teach him Yahweh’s mispat (ordinances).  In asking Yahweh to teach him Yahweh’s ordinances, the psalmist is asking for guidance––for direction––for a lamp at his feet––for safety––for security.

For the meaning of mispat (ordinances), see verse 7 above.

“My soul (Heb: nepes) is continually in my hand, (Heb: kap––hand or hollow)
yet I won’t forget your law” (Hebrew: torah) (v. 109).

The word nepes (soul) means life or soul.  The psalmist is saying that, by his devotion to Yahweh, he has placed his life, his very essence, in a vulnerable place.  That happens often today, especially in the many countries where Christians are persecuted––but even in nations that used to be much friendlier to the Christian faith.

But, regardless, the psalmist will not forget Yahweh’s law.  Like Job, he will remain steady in the face of adversity.

For the meaning of torah (law), see verse 1 above.

“The wicked have laid a snare (Hebrew: pah) for me,
yet I haven’t gone astray from your precepts”
(Hebrew: piqqud) (v. 110).

The wicked have set a pah (trap or snare) for the psalmist, but he has refused to allow that danger to force him off the path laid down by Yahweh’s precepts.

Soldiers fear traps and snares (modern versions include buried mines and IED’s) above most threats.  When walking or driving through areas that might be booby-trapped, the soldier never knows when he will put his foot down only to lose his leg or his life.  He can’t run from that kind of threat.  He can’t hide.  He can only keep putting one foot in front of the other in the hope that he won’t get unlucky.  Fear accompanies every footstep.

The psalmist is afraid of the snares Yahweh’s enemies have laid for him, but he hasn’t allowed that to divert him from Yahweh’s precepts.

For the meaning of piqqud (precepts), see verse 4 above.

“I have taken your testimonies (Heb: ‘edut) as a heritage (Heb: nahal) forever,
for they are the joy of my heart”
(Hebrew: leb) (v. 111).

For the meaning of ‘edut (testimonies), see verse 2 above.

For the meaning of leb (heart), see verse 10a above.

The word nahal (heritage) means to possess or inherit, and was used for inheriting land or possessing the Promised Land (Exodus 23:30).  As such, it bespoke prosperity, even wealth, because ancestral lands provided the means of sustenance for many people.  Because land was so important, Jewish law spelled out in detail how inheritance was to be treated––to include a provision that ancestral lands could not be sold permanently, but could be bought back (Leviticus 25:25)––and would be returned to the original owners in the year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-55).

While the psalmist doesn’t foreswear the heritage of ancestral land, the heritage he prizes here is Yahweh’s testimonies––his laws and precepts––the sure and certain guides provided by Yahweh to help the faithful navigate the difficult shoals of life.  Those testimonies and laws give the psalmist joy at the center of his being (heart), because he knows the love with which they were given and their efficacy in guiding him rightly.

“I have set my heart to perform your statutes (Hebrew: hoq) forever,
even to the end”
(v. 112).

For the meaning of hoq (statutes), see verse 8 above.

The psalmist has committed himself to keeping Yahweh’s statutes for the rest of his life.



113 I hate double-minded men,
but I love your law.

114 You are my hiding place and my shield.
I hope in your word.

115 Depart from me, you evildoers,
that I may keep the commandments of my God.

116 Uphold me according to your word, that I may live.
Let me not be ashamed of my hope.

117 Hold me up, and I will be safe,
and will have respect for your statutes continually.

118 You reject all those who stray from your statutes,
for their deceit is in vain.

119 You put away all the wicked of the earth like dross.
Therefore I love your testimonies.

120 My flesh trembles for fear of you.
I am afraid of your judgments.



121 I have done what is just and righteous.
Don’t leave me to my oppressors.

122 Ensure your servant’s well-being.
Don’t let the proud oppress me.

123 My eyes fail looking for your salvation,
for your righteous word.

124 Deal with your servant according to your loving kindness.
Teach me your statutes.

125 I am your servant. Give me understanding,
that I may know your testimonies.

126 It is time to act, Yahweh,
for they break your law.

127 Therefore I love your commandments more than gold,
yes, more than pure gold.

128 Therefore I consider all of your precepts to be right.
I hate every false way.

PSALM 119:129-136.  PE

“Your testimonies (Hebrew: ‘edut) are wonderful, (Hebrew: pala’)
therefore my soul (Hebrew: nepes) keeps them” (v. 129).

The word pala’ means to do something wonderful––majestic.

When we think of the wondrous things God has done, we often point to the majesty of the heavens, which declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1)––or other manifestations of God’s creative endeavors.

But the psalmist points instead to Yahweh’s testimonies, which include the creation but also include the deliverance of his people––and the guidance of his laws––and the message of his prophets.  Yahweh enriches the psalmist’s life with these and many other things, so the psalmist resolves to keep Yahweh’s testimonies––to obey them––to incorporate them into his life (nepes) at the deepest level.

“The entrance (Hebrew: petah) of your words gives light.
It gives understanding to the simple”
(Hebrew: peti) (v. 130).

The word petah (entrance) means entrance or unfolding or revelation.  That revelation sometimes comes suddenly, as when we walk through a door.  But it more often comes as an unfolding, with each bit building on those that came before.

Note the wordplay between petah (entrance) and peti (simple).  The psalmist is a poet, and this is one small example of his facility with words.

While the word peti (simple) means just that––simple or lacking maturity or insight––it can also mean foolish or simpleminded.  The miracle is that God’s word has the potential, regardless of the recipient’s deficiency, to give understanding––to bring things into focus so the person can see clearly, often for the first time.

“I opened my mouth wide and panted, (Hebrew: sa’ap)
for I longed for (Hebrew: ya’ab your commandments” (v. 131).

Opening the mouth and panting (sa’ap) are physical manifestations of deep desire or need.

The word ya’ab (longing for) reinforces the idea of deep need––in this case for Yahweh’s commandments.

Note the wordplay between sa’ap (panted) and ya’ab (long for)––another example of the psalmist’s poetic ability.

“Turn (Hebrew: panah) to me, and have mercy (Hebrew: hanan) on me,
as you always do to those who love your name”
(v. 132).   The psalmist calls Yahweh to turn toward the psalmist and to be gracious to him––to show him mercy.

We know how it feels to have someone turn their away us, either literally or figuratively.  When that happens, we feel isolated, lonely, friendless.  Sometimes we feel that God has turned his back on us.  The psalmist seems to be feeling that in this verse, so he asks Yahweh to turn toward him––to welcome him back into relationship––to be gracious and merciful.  Most of us have prayed that sort of prayer at some moment of our lives.

But then the psalmist adds to his appeal by noting that Yahweh always does these things for “those who love your name.”  If that is Yahweh’s default response to those who love his name, then surely he will answer the psalmist’s prayer.

“Establish (Hebrew: kun) my footsteps in your word. (Hebrew: ’emrah)
Don’t let any iniquity have dominion over me” (v. 133).

The word kun (establish) means to set up or to establish something lasting.  The psalmist is paying that Yahweh  will plant his feet firmly in Yahweh’s word.

Thus anchored, the psalmist will be steadfast and resolute in the face of temptation or adversity.  Thus anchored, no iniquity will be able to gain dominion over him.

The usual Hebrew word for word is dabar.  The word ’emrah (word) is less usual, although it is occasionally used elsewhere in Hebrew scripture.  It is used nearly a dozen times in this psalm––probably because the poet is looking for different words and ways of saying things in a lengthy poem extolling one thing––Yahweh’s law.

“Redeem (Heb: padah) me from the oppression (Heb: ‘oseq) of man, (Heb: ‘adam)
so I will observe (Hebrew: samar) your precepts” (v. 134).

The word padah means ransom, redeem, or deliver.  Redemption involves bringing liberty to a captive, usually through the payment of a price (a ransom).  The New Testament presents Jesus’ death on the cross as a redemptive act for humanity––as a “ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

The word ‘oseq (oppression) means oppression or extortion or injustice.  It typically involves taking something unlawfully from another person, whether by force or fraud or a flawed justice system.  The victims of oppression tend to be poor or powerless––at least by comparison with the oppressor.

So the psalmist is praying that Yahweh will deliver him from human (‘adam) oppression so he can observe (samar) Yahweh’s precepts.

This raises a question:  Is the psalmist suggesting that he CAN not or WILL not observe Yahweh’s precepts if Yahweh fails to redeem him from oppression?

  • To say that the psalmist WILL not observe Yahweh’s precepts unless redeemed from oppression would constitute a quid pro quo demand unworthy of the psalmist.
  • To say that he CAN not observe Yahweh’s precepts could assume that the psalmist might be impaired to the place where he could not exercise his faith as required by Jewish law. One example would be if the psalmist were an exile in which he could worship at the temple.

“Make your face shine on your servant.
Teach me your statutes”
(v. 135).

We convey a great deal by the expression of our face––anger, contempt, joy.  To make one’s face shine on another person is to convey favor, friendship, and joy.  We have all been greeted by someone whose face was shining because of their happiness in seeing us.  We have greeted others in the same way.

The psalmist is asking that Yahweh might look upon him in this joyful manner­­––a way of asking Yahweh to act favorably toward him.

Is “Teach me your statutes” a change of subject––or is it related to “Make your face to shine on your servant”?  The latter is almost certainly the case.  The psalmist is asking Yahweh to teach him Yahweh’s statutes as a means of blessing him––of making Yahweh’s face to shine on him.

“Streams of tears run down my eyes,
because they don’t observe your law”
(v. 136).

The psalmist expresses his profound grief that “they” don’t observe Yahweh’s law––but doesn’t identify “they.”  There was no shortage of disobedient candidates in the psalmist’s day, and there are also many today.

If we love Yahweh and believe that his is the way of salvation, we cannot help but be deeply disturbed by people engaging in destructive behavior––destructive both to themselves and their families.

My wife and I live in a small middle-class community with a number of churches.  However, we are aware of at-risk children in our midst, lots of them––kids whose families are dysfunctional, usually because of drugs.  It breaks our hearts.

PSALM 119:137-144.  TZADI

“You are righteous, (Hebrew: saddiq) Yahweh.
Your judgments are upright”
(v. 137).

Saddiq means just or righteous, and implies conduct that adheres to a standard. It is used to describe particular people.  It is also used to describe God (Exodus 9:27; Ezra 9:15; Psalm 7:11), who is “the ultimate standard used to define justice and righteousness” (Baker and Carpenter, 938).

As part of Yahweh’s righteousness, he makes upright  judgments.

“You have commanded your statutes in righteousness.
They are fully trustworthy”
(v. 138).

Yahweh’s statutes are not capricious.  They are not intended to curb our options, but Yahweh instead provides them as trustworthy guides.

“My zeal wears me out,
because my enemies ignore your words”
(v. 139).

The psalmist’s zeal exhausts him, because he finds himself in an environment where people ignore Yahweh’s words.

That is increasingly true for us today.  There was a time when it was easy to be a Christian in many countries.  People sometimes joined churches, in part, to cement business relationships.  That is no longer the case.  The world in which we live has grown increasingly hostile to the Christian faith.  Being zealous for the faith can be exhausting––even dangerous.

“Your promises have been thoroughly tested,
and your servant loves them”
(v. 140).

The fact that the psalmist lives in a hostile environment has not dampened his zeal for God’s word, because he has tested God’s word and found it trustworthy.

“I am small and despised.
I don’t forget your precepts”
(v. 141).

The question here is whether the psalmist feels small and despised––or believes that the world sees him that way.  Probably the latter.  The world tends to be more impressed by power and money than by spiritual values.

But in spite of the low esteem in which the world holds him, the psalmist is determined to maintain his faithfulness to Yahweh’s precepts––the rules Yahweh has laid down to guide our behavior.

“Your righteousness is an everlasting (Hebrew: ‘olam) righteousness.
Your law is truth”
(v. 142).

The word ‘olam means a very long time, and can look backward to the past or forward to the future.  In this instance, the psalmist most likely intends both––past and future.  He is proclaiming the eternal quality of Yahweh’s righteousness.

Yahweh’s righteousness is reflected in the law that he has given Israel.  That law is ’emet (truth)––that which is real, dependable, stable, faithful––law that we can count on to guide us faithfully.

“Trouble and anguish have taken hold of me.
Your commandments are my delight”
(v. 143).

While we don’t know the source of the psalmist’s trouble (what has happened to him) or his anguish (the pain he feels), his problem is probably enemies who have little regard for him––and use their power to oppose him.

But the psalmist’s life is not unalloyed misery.  He finds great delight in Yahweh’s commandments, which he knows to be faithful and true.

“Your testimonies (Hebrew: ‘edut) are righteous forever.
Give me understanding,
(Hebrew: biyn) that I may live” (v. 144).

The word ‘edut (testimonies) was often used to refer to God’s testimony to the Hebrew people as reflected in the Ten Commandments and God’s covenant with the Hebrew people.  Over time, it came to mean laws or precepts.

The psalmist prays for biyn (understanding, discernment) that he might live.  This brings to mind Solomon, to whom God said, “Ask what I shall give you” (1 Kings 3:5).  Solomon replied,

“Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people,
that I may discern between good and evil;
for who is able to judge this your great people?” (1 Kings 3:9).

Few things are more important than understanding, discernment, and wisdom.  People lacking in those qualities might be highly successful in one field or another, but are often prone to bad decisions or self-destructive behavior that compromises the quality of their lives.



145 I have called with my whole heart.
Answer me, Yahweh!
I will keep your statutes.

146 I have called to you. Save me!
I will obey your statutes.

147 I rise before dawn and cry for help.
I put my hope in your words.

148 My eyes stay open through the night watches,
that I might meditate on your word.

149 Hear my voice according to your loving kindness.
Revive me, Yahweh, according to your ordinances.

150 They draw near who follow after wickedness.
They are far from your law.

151 You are near, Yahweh.
All your commandments are truth.

152 Of old I have known from your testimonies,
that you have founded them forever.



153 Consider my affliction, and deliver me,
for I don’t forget your law.

154 Plead my cause, and redeem me!
Revive me according to your promise.

155 Salvation is far from the wicked,
for they don’t seek your statutes.

156 Great are your tender mercies, Yahweh.
Revive me according to your ordinances.

157 Many are my persecutors and my adversaries.
I haven’t swerved from your testimonies.

158 I look at the faithless with loathing,
because they don’t observe your word.

159 Consider how I love your precepts.
Revive me, Yahweh, according to your loving kindness.

160 All of your words are truth.
Every one of your righteous ordinances endures forever.



161 Princes have persecuted me without a cause,
but my heart stands in awe of your words.

162 I rejoice at your word,
as one who finds great spoil.

163 I hate and abhor falsehood.
I love your law.

164 Seven times a day, I praise you,
because of your righteous ordinances.

165 Those who love your law have great peace.
Nothing causes them to stumble.

166 I have hoped for your salvation, Yahweh.
I have done your commandments.

167 My soul has observed your testimonies.
I love them exceedingly.

168 I have obeyed your precepts and your testimonies,
for all my ways are before you.



169 Let my cry come before you, Yahweh.
Give me understanding according to your word.

170 Let my supplication come before you.
Deliver me according to your word.

171 Let my lips utter praise,
for you teach me your statutes.

172 Let my tongue sing of your word,
for all your commandments are righteousness.

173 Let your hand be ready to help me,
for I have chosen your precepts.

174 I have longed for your salvation, Yahweh.
Your law is my delight.

175 Let my soul live, that I may praise you.
Let your ordinances help me.

176 I have gone astray like a lost sheep.
Seek your servant, for I don’t forget your commandments.

SCRIPTURE QUOTATIONS are from the World English Bible  (WEB), a public domain (no copyright) modern English translation of the Holy Bible.  The World English Bible is based on the American Standard Version (ASV) of the Bible, the Biblia Hebraica Stutgartensa Old Testament, and the Greek Majority Text New Testament.  The ASV, which is also in the public domain due to expired copyrights, was a very good translation, but included many archaic words (hast, shineth, etc.), which the WEB has updated.




Anderson, A.A., The New Century Bible Commentary: Psalms 73-150 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972)

Broyles, Craig C., New International Biblical Commentary: Psalms (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1999

Brueggemann, Walter, The Message of the Psalms A Theological Commentary (Minneapolis: Augsburg Press, 1984)

Clifford, Richard J., Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 73-150 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003)

DeClaisse-Walford, Nancy; Jacobson, Rolf A.; Tanner, Beth Laneel, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament:  The Book of Psalms (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2014)

Gower, Ralph, The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times (Chicago: Moody Press, 1987)

Kidner, Derek, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Psalms 73-150, Vol. 14b (Downers Grove, Illinois:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1973)

Limburg, James, Westminster Bible Companion: Psalms (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000

Mays, James Luther, Interpretation: Psalms (Louisville: John Knox, 1994)

McCann, J. Clinton, Jr., The New Interpreter’s Bible: The Book of Psalms, Vol. 4 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996)

Ross, Allen P., A Commentary on the Psalms, 90-150, Vol. 3  (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2016)

Tate, Marvin E., Word Biblical Commentary: Psalms 51-100 (Dallas: Word Books, 1990)

Waltner, James H., Believers Church Bible Commentary: Psalms (Scottdale, Pennsylvania: Herald Press, 2006)


Baker, Warren (ed.), The Complete WordStudy Old Testament (Chattanooga; AMG Publishers, 1994)

Baker, Warren and Carpenter, Eugene, The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003)

Bromiley, Geoffrey (General Editor), The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised, 4 vols. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979-1988)

Brown, Francis; Driver, S.R.; and Briggs, Charles A., The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1906, 2004)

Doniach, N.S. and Kahane, Ahuvia, The Oxford English-Hebrew Dictionary (Oxford University Press, 1998)

Fohrer, Georg, Hebrew & Aramaic Dictionary of the Old Testament (SCM Press, 2012)

Freedman, David Noel (ed.), The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 6 vol. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007)

Freedman, David Noel (Ed.), Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000)

Mounce, William D., (ed.), Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan, 2006)

Renn, Stephen D., Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words: Word Studies for Key English Bible Words Based on the Hebrew and Greek Texts (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2005)

Richards, Lawrence O., Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Zondervan, 1985, 1991)

Sakenfeld, Katharine Doob (ed.), The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, 5 vol.  (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2006-2009)

VanGemeren, Willem A. (General Editor), New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology & Exegesis, 5 vol., (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997)

Copyright 2019, Richard Niell Donovan