Psalm 144:3-4, 12-15

Psalm 144:3-4, 12-15
A Women’s Lectionary – Proper 8


O Lord,A what are humansB that you regardC them,
    or mortalsD that you thinkE of them?

Notes on verse 3

A “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.
B “humans” = adam. Perhaps from adam (to be red, make ruddy); related to adamah (ground, dirt, earth). This is man, humankind, also Adam’s name. It refers to a human individual or humanity.
C “regard” = 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.
D “mortals” = ben + ish. Literally, “son of man.” Ben is from banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Ish is perhaps from enosh (human, humankind, mortal); from anash (to be weak, sick, or frail). This is man, husband, another, or humankind.
E “think” = chashab. This is properly to braid or interpenetrate. Literally it is to create or to wear. Figuratively, it can mean plotting – generally in a negative sense. More broadly, this can also mean think, consider, or make account of.

TheyF are like a breath;G
    their daysH are likeI a passingJ shadow.K

Notes on verse 4

F “they” = adam. Same as “humans” in v3. See note B above.
G “breath” = hebel. This is emptiness, vapor, breath. It can refer to something that is fleeting or futile, worthless or a delusion. Something that is passing and so does not satisfy. This is related to the root for the name “Abel.”
H “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.
I “are like” = damah. This is to be like, resemble, devise. It can be to think using analogies.
J “passing” = 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.
K “shadow” = tsel. From tsalal (to be or become dark, shade; this is the shade as during twilight or shadow as associated with something opaque). This is shade in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be shadow, shade, protection, shelter, or defense.

12 May our sonsL in their youthM
    be like plantsN full grown,O

Notes on verse 12a

L “sons” = ben. Same as “mortals” in v3. See note D above.
M “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.
N “plants” = natia. 1x in OT. From nata (to plant, fasten, fix). This is a plant.
O “full grown” = gadal. This is to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing.

our daughtersP like corner pillars,Q
    cutR for the buildingS of a palace.T

Notes on verse 12b

P “daughters” = bat. Related to “mortals” in v3. From ben (see note D above). This is daughter in a literal or figurative sense.
Q “corner pillars” = zavith. 2x in OT. May come from a word that means to be prominent. This is a corner, angle, corner column.
R “cut” = chatab. 9x in OT. This is to chop wood, a woodcutter, to polish or carve wood.
S “building” = tabnith. Related to “mortals” in v3 & “daughters” in v12. From banah (see note D above). This is a structure, model, figure, image, or resemblance.
T “palace” = hekal. Perhaps from yakol (to be able, endure, overcome, prevail). This is a large building with public access such as a palace or temple.

13 May our barnsU be filledV
    with produce of every kind;W
may our sheepX increase by thousands,Y
    by tens of thousandsZ in our fields,AA

Notes on verse 13

U “barns” = mazu. 1x in OT. May come from a word that means gathering in. It is a barn or granary.
V “be filled” = male + puq. Male is fill, satisfy, replenish, accomplish, fulfill, confirm, or consecrate. It is fill in a literal or figurative sense. Puq is 7x in OT. This is to further, supply, obtain, offer, bring out, secure, succeed.
W “produce of every kind” = zan + el + zan. Literally, “from kind to kind.” Zan is 3x in OT. Perhaps from zun (to feed, be fat, nourish). This is kind, sort, fully nourished.
X “sheep” = tson. This is a flock of sheep and goats.
Y “increase by thousands” = alaph. 1x in OT. From eleph (a thousand); from the same as eleph (cattle, herd); from alaph (to learn, utter). This is to increase by thousands, bring forth.
Z “tens of thousands” = rabab. 13x in OT. This is to increase, multiply, abound.
AA “fields” = chuts. Root may mean to sever. So, this is something that is separated by a wall – the outside, the street, a field, highway, or abroad.

14     and may our cattleBB be heavy with young.CC
May there be no breachDD in the walls, no exile,EE
    and no cry of distressFF in our streets.GG

Notes on verse 14

BB “cattle” = alluph. Related to “increase by thousands” in v13. From alaph (see note Y above). This is a friend, something gentle like a tame bull. It can also refer to someone who is noble or a leader like a captain, guide, or governor.
CC “be heavy with young” = sabal. 9x in OT. This is carry a heavy load, do strong labor, be a burden. Can also specially mean to be pregnant.
DD “breach” = perets. 19x in OT. From parats (to make a breach, burst out, compel, disperse; to break out literally or figuratively). This is a breach or a gap. It could be a break, whether literal or figurative.
EE “exile” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
FF “cry of distress” = tsevachah. 4x in OT. From tsavach (to cry out, shout). This is an outcry, a screech of distress.
GG “streets” = rechob. From rachab (to grow wide or enlarge in a literal or figurative sense; extend, relieve, rejoice, or speak boldly). This is a wide, open place like a plaza, square, or avenue.

15 HappyHH are the peopleII to whom such blessings fall;
    happy are the people whose GodJJ is the Lord.

Notes on verse 15

HH “happy” = esher. From ashar (to go straight, lead, guide; to be level and so to be right, blessed, honest, happy). This is happy or blessedness.
II “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.
JJ “God” = Elohim.

Image credit: “Dandelion Wish” by John Liu, 2011.

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