Psalm 116:12-15

Psalm 116:12-15
Narrative Lectionary 137


12 What shall I returnA to the LordB
    for allC his bountyD to me?

Notes on verse 12

A “return” = shub. To turn back, return, turn away – literally or figuratively. Doesn’t necessarily imply going back to where you started from. This is also the root verb for the Hebrew word for repentance “teshubah.”
B “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.
C “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
D “bounty” = tagmul. 1x in OT. From gamal (how one deals with someone whether positively or negatively –to reward, requite; to wean or the work that goes into something ripening). This is benefit or bounty.

13 I will lift upE the cupF of salvationG
    and callH on the nameI of the Lord;

Notes on verse 13

E “lift up” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
F “cup” = kos. This is a cup or it could refer to an owl since theirs eyes look similar to cups.
G “salvation” = yeshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.
H “call” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
I “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.

14 I will payJ my vowsK to the Lord
    in the presenceL, M of all his people.N

Notes on verse 14

J “pay” = shalam. This is to be complete or sound – to have safety mentally, physically, or extending to one’s estate. So, if these things are safe and complete, the implication is that one would be friendly; and, if being friendly, one would make amends and that friendship would be reciprocated. This is the root verb that “shalom” comes from, the Hebrew word for peace.
K “vows” = neder. From nadar (to vow or promise). This is a vow – literally, that which was promised.
L “presence” = neged. From nagad (to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain). This is in front of, opposite to. It can refer to a counterpart or partner, one corresponding to or in the sight of.
M {untranslated} = na. This particle is used for requests or for urging. It can be we pray, now, I ask you, oh. This is the same “na” in “hosanna.”
N “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.

15 PreciousO in the sightP of the Lord
    is the deathQ of his faithful ones.R

Notes on verse 15

O “precious” = yaqar. From yaqar (to be precious, costly, rare, valued; properly, to be heavy; figuratively, valuable or inhibit). This is precious, splendid, noble, weighty, or rare. It is valuable in a subjective or objective sense.
P “sight” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
Q “death” = mavet. From muth (to die in a literal or figurative sense). This can be death, deadliness, the dead, or the place where the dead go. It can be used figuratively for pestilence or ruin.
R “faithful ones” = chasid. 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 faithful, kind, pious, merciful, or gracious. It can also refer to godly or pious people. This is where Chasidic Jews take their name from.

Image credit: “Gomme a Hand” in Barcelona. Photo by Alan Levine, 2009.

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