Psalm 111

Psalm 111
Ordinary B38


PraiseA the Lord!B
I will give thanksC to the LordD with my whole heart,E

Notes on verse 1a

A “praise” = halal. This is to be clear – it originally referred to a sound, then a color. It was to shine and then make a show or boast then to rave. In a causative sense it came to mean celebrate, give glory, sing praise, or be worth of praise. Because of the celebratory nature of the word, it could also mean to give in marriage. This is where Hallelujah comes from.
B “Lord” = Yah. From YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; God, Lord; the self-existent or eternal one); from havah (to become) or hayah (to be, become, happen)}. This is Lord or God – a shortened form of God’s most holy name.
C “give thanks” = yadah. From yad (hand). This is to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise. So, it is to praise, give thanks, or make a confession.
D “Lord” = YHVH. Related to “Lord” in v1. See note B above.
E “heart” = lebab. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.

    in the companyF of the upright,G in the congregation.H

Notes on verse 1b

F “company” = sod. Perhaps from yasad (to establish, appoint, instruct; to set in a literal or figurative sense; also, to sit down together and so to consult or take counsel). This is a session, counsel, or assembly. It can also mean a consultation.
G “upright” = yashar. From yashar (to be straight, right, even, smooth, or agreeable; figuratively, to make something pleasant or prosperous). This is straight, right, level. Also, it is pleasing, whether pleasing God or pleasing other people. So, it is upright or righteous.
H “congregation” = edah. From yaad (to appoint, assemble or gather selves, agree) OR from ed (witness, testimony, recorder); from ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve). This is a congregation, assembly, or company. It could be a family, crowd, or fixture.

GreatI are the worksJ of the Lord,K
    studiedL by all who delightM in them.

Notes on verse 2

I “great” = gadol. From gadal (to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing). This is great, high, bigger, noble, old, marvelous. It can also refer to someone who is powerful or distinguished.
J “works” = maaseh. From asah (to do, make, accomplish, become). This is a word – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.
K “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note D above.
L “studied” = darash. This is seek, ask, inquire, care for. Generally it means following in pursuit or following as part of a search, which implies seeking or asking. Also used specially to mean worship.
M “delight” = chephets. From chaphets (properly, inclined towards or bending to; figuratively, to desire, delight in, or be pleased with). This is a delight, care, or pleasure. It is what you desire or what is acceptable. It can also be used concretely for a precious thing or something that one is thinking about.

Full of honorN and majestyO is his work,P

Notes on verse 3a

N “full of honor” = hod. This is grandeur, beauty, glory, honor, or authority. It emphasizes a form or appearance with gravitas.
O “majesty” = hadar. From hadar (to honor or adorn; majestic, respected, glorious; to favor or honor; to be proud). This is ornament, splendor, beauty, dignity, majesty, magnificence, and glory.
P “work” = poal. From paal (to do, make, work, or accomplish; generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – to practice). This is an action or deed, conduct. It is the act of working or the work itself. It can also be wages or maker.

    and his righteousnessQ enduresR forever.S

Notes on verse 3b

Q “righteousness” = 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.
R “endures” = amad. This is to stand up in a literal or figurative sense. So it can be establish, continue, endure, take a stand, act, be a servant, stand still, remain, stand against an enemy.
S “forever” = ad. From adah (to advance or continue; to take away or remove; adorning oneself with ornaments). This is old, perpetuity, eternity. It is a duration going back or forward.

He has gainedT renownU by his wonderful deeds;V

Notes on verse 4a

T “gained” = asah. Related to “works” in v2. See note J above.
U “renown” = zeker. From zakar (to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention). This is remembrance, renown, memento, recollection, or commemoration.
V “wonderful deeds” = pala. From pele (wonder, miracle, wonderful, marvelous thing). This is to be extraordinary, to arise, to be great or accomplish.

    the LordW is graciousX and merciful.Y

Notes on verse 4b

W “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note D above.
X “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.
Y “merciful” = rachum. 13x in OT. 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 compassionate or merciful.

He providesZ foodAA for those who fearBB him;

Notes on verse 5a

Z “provides” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
AA “food” = tereph. From taraph (to tear or pluck off into pieces, to rend or catch; to supply with food). This is something that is ton – spoil, prey, food, or some other fragment.
BB “fear” = yare. From 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.

    he is everCC mindfulDD of his covenant.EE

Notes on verse 5b

CC “ever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
DD “is…mindful” = zakar. Related to “renown” in v4. See note U above.
EE “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.

He has shownFF his peopleGG the powerHH of his works,

Notes on verse 6a

FF “shown” = nagad. This is to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain.
GG “people” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
HH “power” = koach. Root 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.

    in givingII them the heritageJJ of the nations.KK

Notes on verse 6b

II “giving” = natan. Same as “provides” in v5. See note Z above.
JJ “heritage” = nachalah. Related to nachal (to inherit, occupy, distribute, take as heritage). This is properly something that was inherited. It can mean occupancy generally or, more particularly, an heirloom or an estate. This can be an inheritance, gift, possession, or portion.
KK “nations” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.

The works of his handsLL are faithfulMM and just;NN
    all his preceptsOO are trustworthy.PP

Notes on verse 7

LL “hands” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
MM “faithful” = emet. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This is firmness or stability. Figuratively, it is faithfulness, truth, or trustworthiness. This is the same root that “amen” comes from.
NN “just” = 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.
OO “precepts” = 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.
PP “trustworthy” = aman. Related to “faithful” in v7. See note MM above.

They are establishedQQ forever and ever,
    to be performedRR with faithfulness and uprightness.
9 He sentSS redemptionTT to his people

Notes on verses 8-9a

QQ “established” = samak. This is to lean, rest, support, brace, uphold, sustain, or establish. It is to lean on in a positive or negative sense.
RR “performed” = asah. Same as “gained” in v4. See note T above.
SS “sent” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.
TT “redemption” = peduth. 4x in OT. From padah (to sever, to ransom; to secure someone’s release by paying their debt freeing them from slavery); to redeem, rescue, deliver, preserve; the redemption price). This is redemption, ransom, division.

    he has commandedUU his covenant forever.VV
    HolyWW and awesome isXX his name.YY

Notes on verse 9b

UU “commanded” = tsavah. This is to charge, command, order, appoint, or enjoin. This is the root that the Hebrew word for “commandment” comes from (mitsvah).
VV “forever” = olam. Same as “ever” in v5. See note CC above.
WW “holy” = qadosh. From qodesh (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); related to qadash (set apart, consecrated, hallowed, sanctified; something or someone set apart for a holy purpose or use – ceremonially or morally clean). This is sacred or holy in a ritual or moral sense. As a noun, it refers to a holy one (like a saint or angel), a holy place (the sanctuary), or God (the Holy One).
XX “awesome is” = yare. Related to “fear” in v5. See note BB above.
YY “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.

10 The fearZZ of the LordAAA is the beginningBBB of wisdom;CCC

Notes on verse 10a

ZZ “fear” = yirah. Related to “fear” in v5 & “awesome is” in v9. From yare (see note BB above). This is fear or reverence.
AAA “Lord” = YHVH. Same as “Lord” in v1. See note D above.
BBB “beginning” = reshith. From rosh (head, captain, or chief; excellent or the forefront; first in position or in statue or in time). This is beginning, first place, highest rank, chief thing.
CCC “wisdom” = chokmah. From chakam (to be wise or teach wisdom; this is wisdom in thought, word, or action). This is wisdom, wit, or skillfulness.

    all those who practiceDDD it have a goodEEE understanding.FFF
    His praiseGGG endures forever.HHH

Notes on verse 10b

DDD “practice” = asah. Same as “gained” in v4. See note T above.
EEE “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.
FFF “understanding” = sekel. 16x in OT. From sakal (to consider or be prudent; to instruct, be an expert; dealing prudently, which implies success and prospering; can mean laying cross-wise). This is prudence, insight, understanding, wisdom, discretion, success.
GGG “praise” = tehillah. Related to “praise” in v1. From halal (see note A above). This is praise or a song of praise. It is to offer God a hymn, to boast in God.
HHH “forever” = ad. Same as “forever” in v3. See note S above.

Image credit: “For the Love of Color” by Rennett Stowe, 2015.

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