Psalm 103

Psalm 103


Of David.I

BlessII the Lord,III O my soul,IV
    and allV that is withinVI me,

Notes on superscript - verse 1a

I “David” = David. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”
II “bless” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
III “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
IV “soul” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
V “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
VI “within” = qereb. Perhaps from qarab (to come near or approach). This is among, in the midst, before, the center It is the inward part, whether literal or figurative. It can also be used for the heart, the site of thoughts and feelings. This word is also used as a technical term for the entrails of the animals who are sacrificed.

    bless his holyVII name.VIII
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
    and do not forgetIX all his benefitsX

Notes on verses 1b-2

VII “holy” = qodesh. This is set apart and so sacred. God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart. Things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy, etc.
VIII “name” = shem. May be from sum (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
IX “forget” = shakach. This is to forget because of not remembering something or not paying attention to it. It can also mean to mislay.
X “benefits” = gemul. 19x in OT. From gamal (how one deals with someone whether positively or negatively – so to reward, requite; to wean or the work that goes into something ripening). This is benefit, deed, recompense. It is some treatment that is deserved or earned, whether positive or negative. It can be reward or requital.

who forgivesXI all your iniquity,XII
    who healsXIII all your diseases,XIV

Notes on verse 3

XI “forgives” = salach. This is to pardon or spare.
XII “iniquity” = avon. Perhaps related to avah (to bend, twist, be amiss). This is sin, mischief, guilt, fault, punishment for iniquity, or moral evil.
XIII “heals” = rapha. Properly, this is to repair by stitching – figuratively this means to heal or cure. It can also mean to make whole.
XIV “diseases” = tachalu. 5x in OT. From chala (to be sick). This is a sickness or pain. It can also refer to a beginning.

who redeemsXV your lifeXVI from the Pit,XVII

Notes on verse 4a

XV “redeems” = gaal. This is to redeem someone or something according to kinship laws. So, it could be acting on a relative’s behalf to buy back their property, to marry one’s brother’s widow, etc. This could be more briefly translated as to redeem, acts as kinsman, or purchase. As a noun, it could be deliverer or avenger.
XVI “life” = chay. From chayah (to live or keep alive literally or figuratively). This is alive, living, lifetime. It can also be used to describe someone’s age. It can refer to animals, plants, water, or a company or congregation of people. It is life in a very broad sense.
XVII “Pit” = shachath. From shuach (to bow or sink down in a literal or figurative sense, humble). This is ditch, trap, grave, or hole. Figuratively, it could be destruction or corruption.

    who crownsXVIII you with steadfast loveXIX and mercy,XX

Notes on verse 4b

XVIII “crowns” = atar. 7x in OT. To surround or encircle to defend, protect, or attack. It is crown in a literal or figurative sense.
XIX “steadfast love” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
XX “mercy” = racham. From the same as rechem (womb); from racham (to love, have compassion, have mercy); from racham (compassion, tender love, womb, compassion; the womb as that which cherishes the fetus). This is compassion, mercy, or tender love.

5 who satisfiesXXI you with goodXXII as long as you liveXXIII
    so that your youthXXIV is renewedXXV like the eagle’s.XXVI

Notes on verse 5

XXI “satisfies” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
XXII “good” = tob. From tob (to be pleasing, to be good). This is good, beautiful, pleasant, agreeable, bountiful, at ease. This word is used for goodness as a concept, a good thing, a good person. This can refer to prosperity and welfare as well as joy, kindness, sweetness, and graciousness. So, this is ethically good, but also enjoyably good.
XXIII “live” = adi. 13x in OT. From adah (adorning oneself with ornaments, decorate). This is decoration, beauty, jewels, ornaments, an outfit, something excellent.
XXIV “youth” = naur. From naar (child or a servant; a child in their active years so they could be aged anywhere from infancy to adolescence); perhaps from naar (to shake, toss up and down, tumble around). This is youth or childhood.
XXV “renewed” = chadash. 10x in OT. This is to renew or restore, to repair or rebuild.
XXVI “eagle’s” = nesher. This is an eagle or vulture – some kind of large bird of prey. Its root may mean lacerate.

6 The Lord worksXXVII vindicationXXVIII
    and justiceXXIX for all who are oppressed.XXX

Notes on verse 6

XXVII “works” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
XXVIII “vindication” = tsedaqah. From the same as tsedeq (rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity). This is righteousness, justice, righteous acts, and moral virtue.
XXIX “justice” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.
XXX “oppressed” = ashaq. This is to wrong, deceive, violate, or use oppression.

He made knownXXXI his waysXXXII to Moses,XXXIII

Notes on verse 7a

XXXI “made known” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
XXXII “ways” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
XXXIII “Moses” = Mosheh. From mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.

    his actsXXXIV to the peopleXXXV of Israel.XXXVI

Notes on verse 7b

XXXIV “acts” = alilah. From alal (to affect, do, practice, mock, overdo, glean, abuse, pain). This is a deed or action – something that causes an effect. It could be a wanton or shameful deed or an opportunity.
XXXV “people” = ben. From banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
XXXVI “Israel” = Yisrael. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (God or god). This is Israel, meaning God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.

8 The Lord is mercifulXXXVII and gracious,XXXVIII
    slowXXXIX to angerXL and aboundingXLI in steadfast love.

Notes on verse 8

XXXVII “merciful” = rachum. Related to “mercy” in v4. 13x in OT. From the same as rechem (see note XX above). This is compassionate or merciful.
XXXVIII “gracious” = channun. 13x in OT. From chanan (beseech, show favor, be gracious; properly, to bend in kindness to someone with less status). This is gracious, compassionate, merciful, having pity on.
XXXIX “slow” = arek. 15x in OT. From arak (to be long in a literal or figurative sense, to continue, defer, draw out, endure, delay). This is long, patience, or slow.
XL “anger” = aph. From anaph (to be angry; properly, breathing hard as a signifier of being enraged). This properly refers to the nose or nostril and by extension the face. It can specifically refer to anger or wrath as one breathes hard and nostrils flare in times of great anger.
XLI “abounding” = rab. From rabab (increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.). This is abundance, many, elder, exceedingly, great. It refers to abundance of amount, rank, or status.

He will not alwaysXLII accuse,XLIII
    nor will he keepXLIV his anger forever.XLV
10 He does not dealXLVI with us according to our sins,XLVII
    nor repayXLVIII us according to our iniquities.

Notes on verses 9-10

XLII “always” = netsach. From natsach (something that glitters from a distance or stands out, excels, has status/standing; also to be permanent or enduring). This is properly a goal or destination as the bright focus to which one journeys. It can be splendor, truthfulness, or confidence. Most often, it refers to everlastingness, always, continually.
XLIII “accuse” = rib. This is properly to toss or grapple. It is used figuratively to mean wrangling and so for arguments, complaints, or disputes. It is used in a legal setting for pleading or defending a case.
XLIV “keep” = natar. 9x in OT. This is to guard, keep, reserve, take care of. Figuratively, it could be to keep a grudge or hold on to anger.
XLV “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
XLVI “deal” = asah. Same as “works” in v6. See note XXVII above.
XLVII “sins” = chet. From chata (to miss, sin, bear blame, to forfeit, lack). This is sin, fault, or punishment of sin.
XLVIII “repay” = gamal. Related to “benefits” in v2. See note X above.

11 For as the heavensXLIX are highL above the earth,LI
    so greatLII is his steadfast love toward those who fearLIII him;

Notes on verse 11

XLIX “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
L “are high” = gabahh. This is to soar or be lofty. So, this is to be high or lift up literally. Figuratively it means to be exalted or proud.
LI “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
LII “great” = gabar. This is to be strong or mighty. It can mean to prevail or to be insolent.
LIII “fear” = yare. From the same as yare (to fear, be afraid, dreadful; also fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect). This is fearful or morally reverent.

12 as far asLIV the eastLV is from the west,LVI
    so far he removesLVII our transgressionsLVIII from us.

Notes on verse 12

LIV “as far as” = rachaq. This is to widen, become distant, cast, or remove. It can be in a literal or figurative sense.
LV “east” = mizrach. From zarach (to rise, shine, or dawn; can also describe symptoms of leprosy). This is the east as the place where the sun rises. It can also refer to the sunrise itself.
LVI “west” = maarab. 14x in OT. From the same as ereb (evening, night, twilight); perhaps from arab (to become dark or become evening). This is the west as the place where the sun sets. It can also refer to the setting itself.
LVII “removes” = rachaq. Same as “as far as” in v12. See note LIV above.
LVIII “transgressions” = pesha. From pasha (to rebel, offend, quarrel; making a break from proper authority so can also refer to an apostate). This is transgression, rebellion, or sin. It could be a revolt on a national scale or an individual moral one.

13 As a fatherLIX has compassionLX for his children,LXI
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;LXII
    he remembersLXIII that we are dust.LXIV

Notes on verses 13-14

LIX “father” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
LX “has compassion” = racham. Related to “mercy” in v4 & “merciful” in v8. See note XX above.
LXI “children” = ben. Same as “people” in v7. See note XXXV above.
LXII “made” = yetser. 9x in OT. From yatsar (to fashion or form, perhaps by squeezing something into a shape or form; to create as a potter does; figuratively, to determine). This is a form, framing, intention, imagination, conception, inclination.
LXIII “remembers” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
LXIV “dust” = aphar. May be related to aphar (to throw dust, be dust). This is dust as powdered, perhaps gray colored. It could be ashes, powder, ground, dry earth, clay mud, or rubbish.

15 As for mortals,LXV their daysLXVI are like grass;LXVII

Notes on verse 15a

LXV “mortals” = ish. Perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
LXVI “days” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
LXVII “grass” = chatsir. Perhaps from the same as chatsir (village, settlement); from chatser (enclosure or court – a yard that is fenced in. It could also be a village or hamlet that is walled in); from chatsar (to blow a trumpet, trumpeter, to surround); from chatsotsrah (trumpet). This is grass, plant, hay, leeks.

    LXVIIIthey flourishLXIX like a flowerLXX of the field;LXXI

Notes on verse 15b

LXVIII {untranslated} = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
LXIX “flourish” = tsuts. Related to “flower” in v15. 9x in OT. See note LXX below.
LXX “flower” = tsiyts. 15x in OT. From tsuts (to twinkle, shine, blossom; figuratively to flourish). This is a blossom or flower. In the sense of glistening, it could also be a polished plate or the wing of a bird.
LXXI “field” = sadeh. This is literally field, ground, soil, or land. It can be used to mean wild like a wild animal.

16 for the windLXXII passesLXXIII over it, and it is gone,
    and its placeLXXIV knowsLXXV it no more.
17 But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlastingLXXVI to everlasting
    on those who fear him,
    and his righteousnessLXXVII to children’s children,

Notes on verses 16-17

LXXII “wind” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.
LXXIII “passes” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
LXXIV “place” = maqom. From qum(to arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide; rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action; standing in a figurative sense). This is a standing, which is to say a spot or space a place. It can also refer to a locality or a physical/mental condition. HaMaqom is also a Jewish name for God – the place, i.e. the Omnipresent One.
LXXV “knows” = nakar. This is to recognize, examine, take notice, show, scrutinize. It is looking at something in a fixed way, showing perhaps respect or reverence. Alternately, it can show gazing with suspicion. Also, it can mean being strange towards someone or something and rejecting or ignoring it.
LXXVI “everlasting” = olam. Same as “forever” in v9. See note XLV above.
LXXVII “righteousness” = tsedaqah. Same as “vindication” in v6. See note XXVIII above.

18 to those who keepLXXVIII his covenantLXXIX
    and remember to doLXXX his commandments.LXXXI

Notes on verse 18

LXXVIII “keep” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
LXXIX “covenant” = berit. Perhaps from barah (to eat, choose, make clear); perhaps from bar (grain, wheat); from bara (to select, purify, cleanse, test, brighten, polish). This is a compact, covenant, alliance, treaty, or league.
LXXX “do” = asah. Same as “works” in v6. See note XXVII above.
LXXXI “commandments” = piqqud. From paqad (to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter; to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge). This is something that is appointed or decreed by God. It can refer to the Law as a whole or a commandment individually.

19 The Lord has establishedLXXXII his throneLXXXIII in the heavens,
    and his kingdomLXXXIV rulesLXXXV over all.

Notes on verse 19

LXXXII “established” = kun. Related to {untranslated} in v15. See note LXVIII above.
LXXXIII “throne” = kisse. From the same as kese (full moon); perhaps from kasah (to cover, conceal, overwhelm; to cover as clothes do or to hide a secret). This is throne – a seat that is covered or has a canopy. Thus, it is a seat that conveys authority.
LXXXIV “kingdom” = malkut. From melek (king, royal). This is royalty, kingdom, realm, empire – the power the sovereign has.
LXXXV “rules” = mashal. This is to rule, reign, govern, have authority, wield.

20 Bless the Lord, O you his angels,LXXXVI
    you mighty onesLXXXVII who do his bidding,LXXXVIII
    obedientLXXXIX to his spokenXC word.XCI

Notes on verse 20

LXXXVI “angels” = malak. This is a messenger, an angel, or a deputy of some kind. Can be used for human messengers literally or for prophets, priests, or teachers as messengers of God. Also used for supernatural messengers i.e. angels.
LXXXVII “mighty ones” = gibbor + koach. Gibbor is related to “great” in v11. From gabar (see note LII above). This is strong, mighty, or powerful. This can imply a warrior, hero, or tyrant. Koach has a root that may mean to be firm. This is power, strength, force. It can be literal or figurative, positive or negative. It can also mean capacity or means – what something produces. Additionally, it could refer to some kind of small reptile.
LXXXVIII “bidding” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
LXXXIX “obedient” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
XC “spoken” = qol. This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
XCI “word” = dabar. Same as “bidding” in v20. See note LXXXVIII above.

21 Bless the Lord, all his hosts,XCII
    his ministersXCIII that do his will.XCIV
22 Bless the Lord, all his works,XCV
    in all places of his dominion.XCVI
Bless the Lord, O my soul.

Notes on verses 21-22

XCII “hosts” = tsaba. From tsaba (to wage war, serve, assemble, fight, perform, muster, wait on). This is a large group of persons (used figuratively for a group of things). It implies a campaign literally as with army, war, warfare, battle, company, soldiers. Can also be used figuratively for hardship or for worship.
XCIII “ministers” = sharath. This is ministering, serving, or waiting on. It can refer to one offering service as a worshipper or one serving as a servant.
XCIV “will” = ratson. From ratsah (to be pleased with, delight, take pleasure in, or accept with favor; to approve or consent regarding something; can be used specifically of satisfying debts or being pardoned). This is delight shown in favor, good will, something that is accepted or acceptable.
XCV “works” = maaseh. Related to “works” in v6. From asah (see note XXVII above). This is a word – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.
XCVI “dominion” = memshalah. Related to “rulers” in v19. 14x in OT. From mimshal (dominion, ruler, authority); from mashal (see note LXXXV above). This is to rule, govern, a ream, ruler, authority, dominion, forces.

Image credit: “Dust in the Wind” by Valerie Everett, 2010.

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