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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 139

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-24

Psalms 139

The Attributes of God

Scripture v. 1-24:

The Attributes of God are presented in this psalm. Three primary attributes are: 1) His omniscience, v. 1-6; 2) His omnipresence, v. 7-13; and 3) His omnipotence, v. 14-16. 4) His Love and mercy are examined, v. 17,18; and 5) His holiness and justice are presented, v. 19,20. David praises Him for His all-seeing and caring providence over men.

Verse 1 witnesses the faith of the Psalmist, that God has searched and known all that relates to Him and His people Israel; The "me," at the end of the verse is not in the original Hebrew; Thus the object of the verb "known," not foreknown, is meant to be "all things;" about both the psalmist and his people, their joys, hopes, sorrows, sins, needs, etc., and exactly when they needed help or chastening, Jeremiah 12:3; Revelation 2:23; Psalms 44:2.

Verse 2 adds, "thou knowest (with linear continuity) my down sitting and mine uprising," when I arise to work and retire to rest, as set forth Psalms 127:2; 2 Kings 19:27. He adds, "Thou understandest (dost continually comprehend) my thoughts afar off;" Though He be in heaven, and we on earth, He is not in the dark regarding a single thought, motive, or act of every person, saved and unsaved, as certified Psalms 94:11; Psalms 138:6; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Matthew 9:4; Luke 9:47; John 2:24-25; 1 Corinthians 4:5.

Verse 3, 4 assert that God knew, was familiar with, all the psalmist’s paths, travels, ways, and even his thoughts and actions, while he lay upon his couch, Job 13:27; Job 31:4. He added that there was not even a word in or spoken by his tongue that the Lord did not know altogether, even the intent of his speaking the word, for good or evil, Proverbs 16:1; Psalms 50:19; Psalms 50:21; Jeremiah 29:23; Hebrews 4:13; Matthew 12:36.

Verses 5, 6 declare "thou hast beset me behind and before," on every hand, with your omnipresence, "and laid thine hand upon me," with blessings and chastening, for my good, Hebrews 12:5-8; He added, "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me (to comprehend). It is high, (so exalted) I cannot attain unto it," else I would be god, myself, Isaiah 9:6-7; Romans 9:33. Yet the knowledge that man needs for salvation is not hidden from but revealed to him, Through the convicting, pricking of the Holy Spirit; Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Proverbs 1:21-30; Proverbs 30:18; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:7-8; Revelation 22:17.

Verse 7 Inquires just where the psalmist might go, even flee, from the presence of the Holy Spirit and the omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God. From His vengeance against sin, the implication is that there exists no place of refuge on earth, Amos 9:2; Jonah 1:3; Jeremiah 23:24. For in His spirit He exists and works everywhere, seeking and calling men to repentance, Hebrews 4:7; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalms 104:30.

Verse 8 asserts "If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there," in your residence and upon your throne; He added, "If I make my bed in hell," (Sheol) (the place of departed spirits of the unregenerate, in hades), "Behold, thou art there," to confront me; There is no hiding place from God, Isaiah 14:11; See also Job 25:6; Job 34:21-22; Proverbs 15:11; Jonah 2:2; Revelation 6:14-17.

Verse 9, 10 add, "if I take the wings of the morning, and (fly to dwell) in the uttermost (most remote) parts of the sea," to escape from my enemies, Psalms 18:10; Psalms 19:6; Psalms 55:6-8; Malachi 4:2. It is added further, "Even there shall thy hand (of care) lead me, and thy right hand (of strength) shall hold (or support) me," as a friend, a guide, one who continually cares, Psalms 73:24; Psalms 23:3; Psalms 5:8; Psalms 27:11; Psalms 138:7.

Verses 11, 12 state that should the psalmist say (to himself) "Surely the darkness shall cover me; Even the light shall be light about me," to expose me to the view of God and bring shame and guilt and fear on me because of my sins that are not hidden from God, Genesis 3:15; Job 9:17; Job 34:22; Jeremiah 23:24; Isaiah 1:10. The darkness and night are symbols of trouble and sorrow, to the guilty, Psalms 138:7.
Verse 12 continues "Yea, the darkness and the light, the day and the night, are alike to God. He seeks all people and all things Through darkness and light, day and night, to record until the judgment hours, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14.

Verses 13, 14 witness that the Lord has possessed (had knowledge of) his reigns, (his innermost feelings, desires and purposes) v. 1,2; and "covered me," (protected me) from the time I was in my mother’s womb," before the time of my birth, Job 10:11-12; Psalms 22:9.
Verse 14 continues "I will praise thee; for I am (exist as) fearfully and wonderfully made," Psalms 4:3; Job 10:9-11. He adds, "marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth (continually) right well," or greatly, Psalms 65:5; 2 Samuel 7:23.

Verses 15, 16 explain that the psalmist’s "substance (body strength) was not hid (concealed) from thee, when I was made in secret (my secret parts) and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth," meaning in the darkness of the womb, Deuteronomy 8:17; Job 30:21; Job 10:11; Psalms 63:9; Isaiah 45:19; Job 1:21.
Verse 16 adds that the Lord did "see my substance, yet being unperfect," when I was immature, an embryo in the womb; "And in thy book (of the living) all my members were written," or recorded, as a human being, before birth, "Which in continuance were fashioned (grew in form) when as yet there was none of them," none yet born, Ecclesiastes 11:5; Ezekiel 18:4-5; Romans 9:11.

Verses 17, 18 exclaim, "How precious (full of grace) are thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum (total) of them," even beyond counting, computing, or calculating, Psalms 36:7; Psalms 31:19; Psalms 40:5; Proverbs 8:31; Isaiah 55:8-9; Jeremiah 29:11; Ephesians 1:18.
Verse 18 adds "If I should (attempt to) count (compute or calculate them) they are more in number than the sand," which can not be measured or numbered, Hosea 1:10. He adds, "when I awake I am still-with thee, under your precious care, v. 17; Proverbs 6:22; Psalms 16:7; Psalms 63:6.

Verses 19, 20 declare that surely the Lord God will, "slay the wicked," that he might praise Him the more, Psalms 81:8. He adds, "Depart from me therefore, ye bloody men," Psalms 5:6; Psalms 9:17; Psalms 55:23; Psalms 64:7; Psalms 94:23; Isaiah 11:4.
Verse 20 adds, "For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain," Philippians 1:18; Philippians 3:18-19; breaking the third commandment, Exodus 20:7; Psalms 24:4.

Verses 21, 22 rhetorically ask, "Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? And am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee?" inferring affirmative answers to each question; One can not both love the Lord and love the ways of His enemies, Psalms 119:158; 2 Chronicles 19:2; Proverbs 29:27. He concluded that he hated God’s enemies with a perfect (mature) hatred and counted them to be also his personal enemies.

Verses 23, 24 conclude with the psalmist’s appeal, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts," indicating his willingness to be right with God in his thoughts, emotions, and desires, Job 31:6. He desired to walk upright, with integrity, before God and men. He concluded, "See if there be (exist) any wicked way it me," any sinful purpose or device, "and lead me in the way everlasting," a noble desire and request, Matthew 7:14; John 14:6; Colossians 2:6; 1 John 5:21; Acts 19:9; Acts 19:23.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Psalms 139". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/psalms-139.html. 1985.
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