Fourth Sunday after Epiphany A
A PsalmA of David.B
1 O Lord,C who may abideD in your tent?E
Who may dwellF on your holyG hill?
A “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.
B “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.”
C “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.
D “abide” = gur. Properly, this is the act of turning off the road for any reason. So, it means sojourning, becoming a guest. It can mean being fearful since one is outside of home territory. It can also mean dwelling, living, or inhabiting if one has turned off the root to encamp for a longer duration. This word is where the Hebrew “ger” comes from, which is the word translated “stranger” or “resident alien.”
E “tent” = ohel. Perhaps from ahal (to shine, be clear). This is a tent, covering, home, or side pillar.
F “dwell” = 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).
G “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.
2 Those who walkH blamelessly,I and doJ what is right,K
and speak the truthL from their heart;M
H “walk” = 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.
I “blamelessly” = tamim. From tamam (to finish or accomplish; to make perfect, demonstrate that you are upright; consume; to complete in a literal or figurative sense). This is entire in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be complete, full, intact, or without defect. Alternately, it could refer to being sound, having integrity, being sincere or perfect.
J “do” = paal. This is to do, make, work, or accomplish. Generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – so, to practice.
K “what is right” = tsedeq. This is 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.
L “truth” = 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.
M “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.
3 who do not slanderN with their tongue,
and doO no evilP to their friends,Q
nor take up a reproachR against their neighbors;S
N “slander” = ragal. From regel (foot, endurance, or journey; a foot as the means of walking and so it implies a step or a greater journey; can euphemistically mean private parts). This is to walk along, spy out, slander.
O “do” = asah. This is to make, do, or accomplish.
P “evil” = ra’. From ra’a’ (to be evil, bad, afflict; properly, to spoil – to destroy by breaking into pieces; figuratively, to cause something to be worthless; this is bad in a physical, social, or moral sense; that which displeases, to do harm or mischief, to punish or vex). This is bad, disagreeable, that which causes pain, misery, something having little or no value, something that is ethically bad, wicked, injury, calamity. This refers to anything that is not what it ought to be – a natural disaster, a disfigurement, an injury, a sin.
Q “friends” = rea. From raah (to associate with). This is the same as neighbor in Leviticus 19:18 “love your neighbor as yourself.” This is friend, companion, fellow, neighbor. It is someone with whom you associate, whether more or less close.
R “reproach” = cherpah. From charaph (to expose and so figuratively to reproach, defame, carp at, defy). This is reproach, rebuke, shame, or disgrace. It can also refer to genitals.
S “neighbors” = qarob. From qarab (to come near, offer, make ready). This is near whether nearby, related, near in time, or allied.
4 in whose eyes the wickedT are despised,U
but who honorV those who fearW the Lord;
who stand by their oathX even to their hurt;Y
T “wicked” = ma’as. This is to reject, refuse, despise, disdain, reject, or spurn. It can also be to disappear or melt away.
U “despised” = bazah. This is to despise, hold in contempt, disesteem, or a person who is vile.
V “honor” = kabad. To be heavy, weighty, or severe. It can also be positive abounding in, rich, or honorable. The Hebrew word for “glory,” kabod, is taken from this root.
W “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.
X “stand by their oath” = sheba. From sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is to swear, curse, vow, make a covenant. Properly, it can mean to be complete. This is to seven oneself – as in affirming something so strongly it is as though it were said seven times.
Y “hurt” = ra’a’. Related to “evil” in v3. See note P above.
5 who do not lend moneyZ at interest,AA
and do not take a bribe against the innocent.BB
Those who do these things shall neverCC be moved.DD
Z “money” = keseph. From kasaph (to long for, be greedy; to become pale). This is silver or money.
AA “at interest” = neshek. 12x in OT. From nashak (bite or sting as from a snake; figuratively, lending with interest). This is interest or usury.
BB “innocent” = naqiy. From naqah (to be empty, cleanse, acquit; to be clean in a literal or figurative sense). This is blameless, innocent, free from punishment, or clear.
CC “never” = lo…olam. Literally “not long.” Olam is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).
DD “be moved” = mot. This is to shake, slip, falter, stagger, move, fall, give way, waver, be carried.
Image credit: Close-up of the Temple in the Holyland Model in Jerusalem. Photo by Juan R. Cuadra.