Psalm 139

Psalm 139


To the leader.I Of David.II A Psalm.III

Notes on superscript

I “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.
II “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.”
III “Psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.

O Lord,IV you have searchedV me and knownVI me.

Notes on verse 1

IV “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.
V “searched” = chaqar. Properly, this means to penetrate. So, it means to thoroughly investigate, examine, ponder, or seek out.
VI “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.

You know when I sit downVII and when I rise up;VIII
    you discernIX my thoughtsX from far away.XI

Notes on verse 2

VII “sit down” = yashab. This is to sit and so to remain and so to dwell. It is sitting for any reason – as a judge, in order to ambush, or just sitting quietly. Causatively, this can mean settling or marrying. This can also mean continue, endure, or establish.
VIII “rise up” = qum. To arise, stand, accomplish, establish, abide. This is rising as in rising against, getting up after being sick or asleep, arising from one state to another, becoming powerful, or rising for action. It can also be standing in a figurative sense.
IX “discern” = bin. This is to discern, consider, attend to. It refers to distinguishing things in one’s mind or, more generally, to understand.
X “thoughts” = rea. In the singular in Hebrew. 2x in OT – both in Psalm 139. Perhaps from ra’ah (to tend a flock, pasture, or graze. It can mean to rule or to associate with someone. Figuratively, it can be ruler or teacher). This is an association of ideas – a purpose or thought.
XI “far away” = rachoq. From rachaq (to widen, become distant, cast, or remove in a literal or figurative sense). This is distant or far, whether of space or of time.

You search outXII my pathXIII and my lying downXIV
    and are acquaintedXV with allXVI my ways.XVII

Notes on verse 3

XII “search out” = zarah. This is to scatter or toss around. It can imply to disperse, cast away, or to scrutinize.
XIII “path” = orach. From arach (to go, travel, wander). This is a road that is widely used, highway, caravan, traveler, troop.
XIV “lying down” = reba. 1x in OT. From raba (to lie down flat; can be to lie for mating). This is to lie down.
XV “are acquainted” = sakan. 12x in OT. This is being customary, of use, of acquainted with.
XVI “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
XVII “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.

Even before a wordXVIII is on my tongue,XIX
    XXO Lord, you know it completely.XXI

Notes on verse 4

XVIII “word” = millah. From malal (to say, speak; often used in a poetic sense). This is something said – a word, speech, talking, or discourse.
XIX “tongue” = lashon. This is tongue, talker, language, or wedge. It can also be a tongue of flame or a water cove.
XX {untranslated} = hen. This is a remark of surprise or excitement: lo! Behold! It can also mean if or though.
XXI “completely” = kol. Same as “all” in v3. See note XVI above.

You hem me in,XXII behindXXIII and before,XXIV
    and layXXV your handXXVI upon me.

Notes on verse 5

XXII “hem…in” = tsur. This is to confine, cramp, or bind in a literal or figurative sense. It can mean to besiege, assault, or distress.
XXIII “behind” = achor. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is the back, behind, backward, time to come. It can also refer to facing to the north or the west.
XXIV “before” = qedem. Perhaps from qadam (to come in front or be in front; to meet, anticipate, confront, receive, or rise; sometimes to meet for help). This is front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity.
XXV “lay” = shith. This is to place, set, bring, appoint, consider, bring, array or look.
XXVI “hand” = kaph. From kaphaph (to bend – from a root meaning curve or bend down). This is palm of the hand or sole of the foot, footstep, grasp. Figuratively, it can also mean power.

6 Such knowledgeXXVII is too wonderfulXXVIII for me;
    it is so highXXIX that I cannot attainXXX it.

Notes on verse 6

XXVII “knowledge” = daat. Related to “known” in v1. From yada (see note VI above). This is knowledge, unawares, cunning, wittingly.
XXVIII “too wonderful” = pili. 2x in NT. From the same as pele (wonder, miracle, wonderful, marvelous thing). This is something wonderful or incomprehensible. It can also refer to a secret.
XXIX “high” = sagab. This is to raise, lifted, high, set secure on high, excellent, or strong. It is inaccessibly high in a literal and figurative sense. It implies something that is safe and, therefore, something that is strong.
XXX “attain” = yakol. This is to be able, endure, overcome, prevail.

Where can I goXXXI from your spirit?XXXII
    Or where can I fleeXXXIII from your presence?XXXIV

Notes on verse 7

XXXI “go” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
XXXII “spirit” = 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.
XXXIII “flee” = barach. This is to flee, drive away, hurry, to bolt.
XXXIV “presence” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

If I ascendXXXV to heaven,XXXVI you are there;
    if I make my bedXXXVII in Sheol,XXXVIII, XXXIX you are there.

Notes on verse 8

XXXV “ascend” = nasaq. 1x in OT. From the same as saleq (to ascend; borrowed from Aramaic). This is ascend or go up.
XXXVI “heaven” = 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.
XXXVII “make…bed” = yatsa. 4x in OT. This is to lay, to spread a bed.
XXXVIII “Sheol” = Sheol. Perhaps from sha’al (to ask, request). This is the place where the dead go, the grace, the underworld.
XXXIX {untranslated} = hen. Same as {untranslated} in v4. See note XX above.

If I takeXL the wingsXLI of the morningXLII
    and settleXLIII at the farthest limitsXLIV of the sea,XLV

Notes on verse 9

XL “take” = 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.
XLI “wings” = kanaph. This is wing, edge, corner, extremity. It can also be a flap or fold of a garment or the pinnacle of a building.
XLII “morning” = shachar. Root may mean to look for in early hour or in a diligent way. This is dawn, early light, or morning.
XLIII “settle” = shakan. This is to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently. It can mean abide or continue. “Mishkan,” taken from this verb, is the Hebrew word for the Tabernacle (as a place where God abided).
XLIV “farthest limits” = acharith. Related to “behind” in v5. From achar (see note XXIII above). This is the last, length, remnant, end, reward, future.
XLV “sea” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.

10 even there your handXLVI shall leadXLVII me,
    and your right handXLVIII shall holdXLIX me fast.

Notes on verse 10

XLVI “hand” = 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.
XLVII “lead” = nachah. This is lead, guide, or bring. It can be used for transporting into exile or coming in as colonists. This is the word used in Psalm 23 “he leads me in the paths of righteousness.”
XLVIII “right hand” = yamin. May be from yamam (to go or choose the right, use the right hand; to be physically fit or firm). This can mean right hand, right side, or south. Since most people are right-handed, the metaphorical usage of this word presumes that the right hand is stronger and more agile. Thus, it is the instrument of power and action.
XLIX “hold” = achaz. This is to grasp, catch, seize, take and hold in possession. It can also be to be afraid or hold back.

11 If I say, “Surely the darknessL shall coverLI me,
    and nightLII wraps itselfLIII around me,”

Notes on verse 11

L “darkness” = choshek. From chashak (to be or become dark). This is literal darkness is contrast to light. Figuratively, it can be obscurity, sorrow, misery, blindness, wickedness, destruction, death. It can also be hiding places. Additionally, it can mean judgment, mourning, ignorance, evil, or sin.
LI “cover” = shuph. 4x in OT. This is to gape, bruise, overwhelm, snape at, or cover.
LII “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.
LIII {untranslated} = or. From or (to be or become light). This is light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight. Figuratively, it can refer to light from instruction, light of a face (that is to say one that is cheerful or finds favor). It can refer to prosperity or salvation; a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion.

12 even the darkness is not darkLIV to you;
    the night is as brightLV as the day,LVI
    for darknessLVII is as lightLVIII to you.

Notes on verse 12

LIV “dark” = chashak. Related to “darkness” in v11. 18x in OT. See note L above.
LV “is as bright” = or. Related to {untranslated} in v11. See note LIII above.
LVI “day” = 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.
LVII “darkness” = chashekah. Related to “darkness” in v11 & “dark” in v12. 5x in OT. From chashak (see note L above). This is darkness – used figuratively for misery.
LVIII “light” = orah. Related to {untranslated} in v11 & “is as bright” in v12. 5x in OT. From or (see note LIII above). This is something luminous. It can refer to a light, an herb, or, figuratively, prosperity.

13 For it was you who formedLIX my inward parts;LX
    you knit me togetherLXI in my mother’sLXII womb.LXIII

Notes on verse 13

LIX “formed” = qanah. This is to acquire, create, purchase, own. Its root may mean to smith or to produce.
LX “inward parts” = kilyah. Perhaps from keli (something that was prepared – any implement, utensil, article, vessel, weapon, or instrument; also includes jewels, weapons, bags, carriages, and furniture); from kalah (to end, be finished, complete, prepare, consume, spent, or completely destroyed). This is inward parts, such as kidney or heart. It can also be inmost being as feelings, mind, or within.
LXI “knit…together” = sakak. This is to cover or overshadow. It could also be to hedge or fence it. Figuratively, this could be to defend, protect, or join together.
LXII “mother’s” = em. This is a mother as binding a family together or a breeding female animal. It could be mother in a literal or figurative sense.
LXIII “womb” = beten. Root may mean to be hollow. This is the belly or womb. It can also refer to a body more broadly.

14 I praiseLXIV you, for I am fearfullyLXV and wonderfully made.LXVI
    WonderfulLXVII are your works;LXVIII
that ILXIX know very well.LXX

Notes on verse 14

LXIV “praise” = 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.
LXV “fearfully” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.
LXVI “wonderfully made” = palah. 7x in OT. This is to distinguish in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be to sever, set apart, or show self to be marvelous.
LXVII “wonderful” = pele. Related to “too wonderful” in v6. From pele (see note XXVIII above). This is to distinguish, accomplish, arise, make great.
LXVIII “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.
LXIX “I” = 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.
LXX “very well” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.

15     My frameLXXI was not hiddenLXXII from you,
when I was being madeLXXIII in secret,LXXIV
    intricately wovenLXXV in the depthsLXXVI of the earth.LXXVII

Notes on verse 15

LXXI “frame” = otsem. 3x in OT. From atsam (vast, numerous, strong; to close one’s eyes, to make powerful; to break bones). This is bones, strength, power, body, substance, frame.
LXXII “hidden” = kachad. This is to hide or conceal or destroy. It can also refer to doing secret actions or secret speech.
LXXIII “made” = asah. Related to “works” in v14. See note LXVIII above.
LXXIV “secret” = sether. From sathar (hide, conceal, or be absent; hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense). This is covering, shelter, protection, hiding place. It can be hidden by a mountain, by clouds, in the womb, in a matter of secrecy, through slander, or of nations.
LXXV “intricately woven” = raqam. 9x in OT– 8x in Exodus of materials for the tabernacle and priesthood. This is to embroider, weave, vary color, fabricate.
LXXVI “depths” = tachti. 19x in OT. From tachat (underneath, below, the bottom, instead of). This is beneath, the depths, foot of a mountain, a pit, the womb.
LXXVII “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

16 Your eyesLXXVIII beheldLXXIX my unformedLXXX substance.

Notes on verse 16a

LXXVIII “eyes” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
LXXIX “beheld” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
LXXX “unformed” = golem. 1x in OT. From galam (to wrap or fold together). This is an unformed mass or substance. This is also the word that the mythical creature “golem” gets its name from (but not the Tolkien character Gollum).

In your bookLXXXI were writtenLXXXII
    all the days that were formedLXXXIII for me,
    when noneLXXXIV of them as yet existed.

Notes on verse 16b

LXXXI “book” = sepher. Perhaps from saphar (to tally or record something; to enumerate, recount, number, celebrate, or declare). This can be writing itself or something that is written like a document, book, letter, evidence, bill, scroll, or register.
LXXXII “written” = kathab. This is to inscribe, write, record, or decree.
LXXXIII “formed” = yatsar. Perhaps related to yatsar (to be narrow, distressed, or vexed); perhaps related to tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is to fashion or form, perhaps by squeezing something into a shape or form. Particularly, it is to create as a potter does. Figuratively, it is to determine.
LXXXIV “none” = lo + echad. Echad is perhaps from achad (to unify, continue on a path; figuratively, to gather one’s thoughts). This is the number one, first, united. It can also be alone, altogether, a certain, a few.

17 How weightyLXXXV to me are your thoughts, O God!LXXXVI
    How vastLXXXVII is the sumLXXXVIII of them!

Notes on verse 17

LXXXV “weighty” = yaqar. 11x in OT. This is to be precious, costly, rare, valued; properly, to be heavy; figuratively, valuable or inhibit.
LXXXVI “God” = El.
LXXXVII “vast” = atsam. Related to “frame” in v15. See note LXXI above.
LXXXVIII “sum” = rosh. This may come a word that means to shake. It is the head, captain, or chief. It can also be excellent or the forefront. It can be first in position or in statue or in time (i.e. the beginning).

18 I try to countLXXXIX them—they are moreXC than the sand;XCI
    I come to the endXCII—I am still with you.

Notes on verse 18

LXXXIX “try to count” = saphar. Related to “book” in v16. See note LXXXI above.
XC “are more” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.
XCI “sand” = chol. From chul (whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain; used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear; can also be falling in pain or waiting). This is sand, perhaps because of its roundness or the way that the grains can whirl.
XCII “come to the end” = quts. Related to qayits (fruit, harvest, dry season); from quts (summer, clip off). This is arise or watch. It is to awake in a literal or figurative sense.

19 O that you would killXCIII the wicked,XCIV O God,XCV
    and that the bloodthirstyXCVI would departXCVII from me—

Notes on verse 19

XCIII “kill” = qatal. 3x in OT. This is to cut off, to kill.
XCIV “wicked” = rasha. This is to be wicked, guilty, make trouble, do wrong. It can also be condemn, guilty, inflict punishment. This verb implies disturbing or violating.
XCV “God” = Eloah. Related to “God” in v17. From El (see note LXXXVI above).
XCVI “bloodthirsty” = enosh + dam. Literally, “men of blood.” Enosh is from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is human, humankind, another. It is mortal. Dam is perhaps from damam (to cease, be or become mute, silent, still, cut off, hold peace, be astonished, die). This is blood, bloodshed, bloodguilt, lifeblood, and death. It is used for people and animals. More often blood from a wound or the blood of the innocent. Used figuratively for violence or for wine. Closely tied to life and death.
XCVII “depart” = sur. This is to turn aside in a literal or figurative sense – to depart, decline, rebel, remove, or withdraw.

20 those who speak of you maliciouslyXCVIII
    and lift themselves upXCIX against you for evil!C

Notes on verse 20

XCVIII “maliciously” = mezimmah. 19x in OT. From zamam (to devise, plot, imagine, intend, scheme, think evil; usually in an evil sense). This is generally an evil plan like a machination. It could also refer to goodness, wisdom.
XCIX “lift…up” = nasa. Same as “take” in v9. See note XL above.
C “evil” = shav + ar. Shav is perhaps from the same as sho (ruin, desolation, storm; from a root that means rushing over – hence a storm and hence devastation). This is emptiness, false, worthless, deceit. It can also refer to evil, guile, idolatry, or something being in vain. Ar is 2x in OT. From the same as iyr (excitement in the sense of wakefulness or city; properly, a place that is guarded; guards kept schedules according to watches; includes cities as well as encampments or posts that were guarded); from uwr (to awaken or wake oneself up).  This is adversary or enemy.

21 Do I not hate those who hateCI you, O Lord?
    And do I not loatheCII those who rise upCIII against you?
22 I hate them with perfectCIV hatred;CV
    I countCVI them my enemies.CVII

Notes on verses 21-22

CI “hate” = sane. This is to hate, an enemy. It is a personal hatred and not an abstract one.
CII “loathe” = qut. 6x in OT. This is to cut off, be grieved. Figuratively, it is to detest.
CIII “rise up” = teqomem. Related to “rise up” in v2. 1x in OT. From the same as qum (see note VIII above.). This is to rise up. It can also refer to an opponent.
CIV “perfect” = taklith. Related to “inward parts” in v13. 5x in OT. From kalah (see note LX above). This is end, completion, limit, or perfection.
CV “hatred” = sinah. Related to “hate” in v21. 16x in OT. From sane (see note CI above). This is hatred.
CVI “count” = hayah. Related to “Lord” in v1. See note IV above.
CVII “enemies” = oyeb. From ayab (to hate or be hostile to). This is a foe or enemy as one that you are hostile to.

23 Search me, O God,CVIII and know my heart;CIX
    testCX me and know my thoughts.CXI
24 SeeCXII if there is any wickedCXIII way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.CXIV

Notes on verses 23-24

CVIII “God” = El. Same as “God” in v17. See note LXXXVI above.
CIX “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.
CX “test” = bachan. This is to examine, test, or prove – as one tests metals. It can also be used literally or figuratively for investigating or trying.
CXI “thoughts” = sarappim. 2x in OT. From the same as seippim (uneasy or enthusiastic thoughts) OR from saiph (opinion, sentiment); {see seippah (division; conflicted opinion); from the same as saiph (fissure, branch, cleft); from saaph (to divide, cut off branches from a tree, top off); from seappah (branch, twig)}. This is disquieting or anxious thoughts.
CXII “see” = raah. Same as “beheld” in v16. See note LXXIX above.
CXIII “wicked” = otseb. 3x in OT. Related to etseb (hurt, sorrow, work that causes pain, physical or mental pain, idol, a pot); from atsab (to hurt, grieve, displease; to carve, make, worry). This is an idol or wicked. It can also be pain, whether physical or mental.
CXIV “everlasting” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

Image credit: “Autumn in Redhill – Nov 2012 – Gold and Sodium” by Gareth Williams, 2012.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply