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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 119

Psalms 119

The chief song of the feast, the proper dedication song, followed the decade which served as it were as an Introduction to it. A children’s sermon forms the conclusion of the dodecade, (comp. an instruction with which the people were dismissed, as they entered upon this new period of their history. Every misfortune, under which they were in part still sighing, had proceeded from their departure from the word of God; faithfulness, therefore, towards the word of God, in deed and in hope, is exhibited as the royal road to salvation.

According to the remark of the Massorites, Psalms 119:122 is the only one in which no mention whatever is made of any one of the names of the word of God. The praise of this word, the assertion that it is the infinitely sure way of salvation, and the only comfort in suffering the determination to be faithful to God’s word and law, prayer for the spiritual understanding of the law and for strength to fulfil it, and supplications for the salvation promised in it, form the contents of this Psalm.

That the Psalm consists of a collection of individual sayings, and that there is no room for attempting to discover any connection, or to tract any consecutive train of thought, is evident à priori from the formal arrangement. This is strictly alphabetical throughout; so much so, that to each of the twenty-two letters of the alphabet there are assigned eight verses, each of which begins with the same letter. In accordance with this division into twenty-two parts, the name Jehovah occurs twenty-two times,—exactly the same number as in the preceding Psalm. The Psalm, according to this its arrangement, is not intended to be read straight forward; if this be done, its want of connection will scarcely fail to be irksome, even to those whose heart is in its right place in regard to the word of God, as praised by the Psalmist; it ought to be used something in the same way in which we use the portions and the doctrinal texts from the Moravian Brethren.

The national reference of the Psalm (comp. at Psalms 112:2), appears from Psalms 119:23, Psalms 119:46, Psalms 119:161, according to which the princes take counsel against the Psalmist and persecute him, and he is resolved to speak before kings of the testimonies of God; from Psalms 119:87 th, where he complains that he is nearly destroyed out of the land, comp. Psalms 115:14; from Psalms 119:44 th, where he promises that he will always an eternally observe the law of God. The manifold references, also, which it contains to the great national deliverances of ancient times, for example Psalms 119:52, lead us to look upon it as bearing a national character.

If we regard the national import of the Psalm as fixed, we must also consider large portions of it which appear, at first sight, to be declarative, viz., the oft-repeated affirmations about zeal in following the law, to bear in reality a hortatory character.

The situation is entirely the same as that in the eight preceding Psalms. The beginning of deliverance is already present, Psalms 119:26, Psalms 119:32, Psalms 119:50, Psalms 119:65, Psalms 119:93, still it is only the beginning: the Psalmist always finds himself still in death; comp., for example, Psalms 119:17, Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:40. The church of God is still few in number, Psalms 119:87, it is still severely oppressed by “the proud,” the haughty heathen world, for example, Psalms 119:50, and the reproach which lies upon it is dreadful, Psalms 119:39. The tone of the Psalm, like the situation, is common to it with the eight preceding Psalms. It is that of soft quiet melancholy comforted by God.

The Psalm may be recognised, throughout its extent, as being the conclusion of one great whole. It not only possesses the alphabetical arrangement in common with the Introduction of the Collection, Psalms 111, Psalms 112, but it is also nearly related to it in thought. In that Introduction, also, praise is bestowed upon the salvation of those who observe the commandments of God. There are, besides, several points of contact, in individual expressions, with Psalms 111-118.

A characteristic feature of our Psalm is the deep conviction that we have nothing to do with human strength in keeping the commandments of God, but that God alone must create the will and the power to perform. The church of God had been convinced of this from the beginning; comp. for example, Psalms 90, Psalms 19, Psalms 51. And the circumstances of the people explain the fact that such efforts are made to bring it prominently forward in this Psalm. A sense of need of external deliverance is accompanied, in the case of the well-disposed, by a sense of need of internal salvation; the one goes hand in hand with the other the cross is the best teacher of humility.

Verses 1-8

Ver. 1. Blessed are they who live blamelessly, who walk in the law of the Lord. Ver. 2. Blessed are they who keep his testimonies, who seek him with the whole heart. Ver. 3. Who also do no unrighteousness, walk in his ways. Ver. 4. Thou hast appointed thy commandments, that we may keep them carefully. Ver. 5, Oh that my ways were confirmed to observe thy commandments. Ver. 6. Then shall I not be ashamed when I regard all thine ordinances. Ver. 7. I will praise thee in uprightness of heart, when I learn the laws of thy righteousness. Ver. 8. Thy commandments I will keep; forsake me not too much.

In reference to “confirmed,” in Psalms 119:5, comp. at Psalms 51:10, Psalms 78:37.—“To be ashamed,” in Psalms 119:6, is to be disappointed in the hope of salvation.

In Psalms 119:7, the sense is: I will praise thee not superficially, or like the hypocrites, but from the bottom of my heart, when I learn by thy grace thy law, comp. “ teach me thy commandments,” in Psalms 119:12, Psalms 119:26.

Before the second clause of Psalms 119:8 we are to suppose a “therefore” put in. The prayer is that of one who finds himself in a very desolate condition. In the case of the man who faithfully follows the commandments of God such a condition cannot be a permanent one.

Verses 9-16

Ver. 9. By what shall a young man keep clean his way? By conducting himself according to thy word. Ver. 10. With my whole heart I seek thee, let me not wander from thy ordinances. Ver. 11. In my heart I keep thy word, in order that I may not sin against thee. Ver. 12. Blessed be thou, O Lord, teach me thy commandments. Ver. 13. With my lips I recount all the judgments of thy mouth. Ver. 14. I rejoice in the way of testimonies more than in all riches. Ver. 15. I will meditate upon, thy commandments and look to thy ways. Ver. 16. I delight in thy commandments; forget not thy word.

The keeping clean in Psalms 119:9 stands opposed to the pollution of sin, which covers those young men who give themselves up to their lusts. At the שמר we must supply “way,” when he takes heed to it; or it stands absolutely in the sense of “to take heed to himself.”

On Psalms 119:11, Amyr.: “For this is the only antidote by which we can protect ourselves against the corruption of our nature.”

The antecedent doxology in Psalms 119:12 contains the basis of the following prayer: O Lord, thou who art so abundant in power and in grace towards thine own.

On Psalms 119:13 comp. Deuteronomy 6:7. Where the word of God is really in the heart it will also be found on the lips.

The word of thy testimonies, in Psalms 119:14, is, according to Psalms 119:27, the manner of life prescribed by the commandments of God.

Thy paths, Psalms 119:15, those prescribed by thee and well pleasing to thee.

Verses 17-24

Ver. 17. Give life to thy servant, so will I keep thy words. Ver. 18. Open my eyes that I may see the wonders in thy law. Ver. 19. I am a stranger on the earth, hide not from me thy commandments. Ver. 20. My soul is broken from longing after thy judgments at all times. Ver. 21. Thou hast rebuked the proud, the accursed ones, who wander from thy ordinances. Ver. 22. Turn away from me reproach and contempt, because I keep thy testimonies. Ver. 23. Princes also sit; they speak against me; thy servant meditateth upon thy commandments. Ver. 24. Thy testimonies are ever my delight, my counsellors.

As the גמל , Psalms 119:17, only signifies “to give as a gift,” (comp. at Psalms 7:4) the אחיה must be the thing given, and must stand as a noun: I may live = life. It is the preservation of the national existence of the people that is meant, comp. Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:77.—”The wonders out of thy law,” Psalms 119:18, are those proceeding out of it for the enlightened eye, those which it perceives in it. Even the simple practical truths of the law are wonders; and it is on these assuredly that the Psalmist, in the first instance, thinks, according to the whole simply practical import of the Psalm. Even these lie beyond the sphere of natural intellect, which cannot be considered as their birth-place, for example, “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbour as thyself.”

On Psalms 119:19 Luther is short and good: “I have no inheritance except thy word, therefore forsake me not.” Pilgrimage is a figurative term, denoting helplessness and misery, comp., for example, Psalms 39:12. The following of the commandment is for Israel, in these circumstances, the only means of deliverance.

That, in Psalms 119:20, משפטים is not judgments in the sense of the commandments of God, but his righteous deeds (comp. Psalms 119:39, and especially Psalms 119:52), is evident from the connection with what follows. Even the being broken, which leads to the idea of a very painful desire after a distant good, does not suit the commandments.

Psalms 119:21 refers to the judgments of God in ancient times upon the proud heathen world, for example upon Pharaoh; comp. Psalms 9:5. Under “Thou didst rebuke,” there lies concealed a “rebuke them now,” comp. Psalms 119:22. The accursed—whoever does not obey the law of God stands under the curse, comp. Deuteronomy 27:26, Galatians 3:10.

That the גל in Psalms 119:22 is the imperat. of גלל , to roll away, is obvious from the literal allusion to Joshua 5:9: as was once the reproach of Egypt.

Thy servant meditates upon thy commandments, Psalms 119:23, and has in that love to them to which salvation is promised a firm shield against all the assaults of the whole world. The princes are the chieftains of the neighbouring nations who published abroad everything to injure Israel.

The “even,” in Psalms 119:24, is appended to “meditates.” They are my caounsellors,—they stand to me in the place of counsellors, I am better advised by them than if I had the best counsellors and allies,—in opposition to the deliberations of the princes in Psalms 119:23.

Verses 25-32

Ver. 25. My soul cleaveth to the dust; quicken me according to thy word. Ver. 26. I have detailed my ways, and thou didst hear me. Ver. 27. Teach me the way of thy commandments, and I will meditate upon thy wonders. Ver.. 28. My soul weeps for grief; raise me up according to thy word. Ver. 29. The way of lies remove far from me, and grant me graciously thy law. Ver. 30. The way of faithfulness I have chosen; thy judgments I lay before me. Ver. 31. I adhere to thy testimonies, O Lord, let me not be put to shame. Ver. 32. The way of thy commandments I will run, for thou enlargest my heart.

The first clause of Psalms 119:25 is from Psalms 44:25.

The sense of Psalms 119:26 is, as is manifest on comparing Psalms 119:32: I brought my trouble to thee, and thou didst hear me (comp. Psalms 118:5: “Out of my distress I cried unto the Lord, the Lord answered me in a wide place,” Psalms 119:21), teach me now thy commandments, in order that, by my obedience, I may shew my gratitude. The ways are the concerns, the case.

The prayer and the promise, in Psalms 119:27, depend upon the common ground of the most profound reverence for the divine law and of the desire hence arising to penetrate into its depths. The way of the commandments of God is the manner of life prescribed by them. On “thy wonders” comp. Psalms 119:18.

For grief, Psalms 119:28, on account of the many sufferings to which I am exposed in spite of my sincere adherence to thy law. According to thy word,—the promise which thou hast given to thy own people.

The way of lies, in Psalms 119:29, is, as is evident from its opposite, the way of faithfulness, the way of faithless apostacy and covenant-breaking. For the people of the Lord, who have vowed faithfulness to him, every act of apostacy is a lie. The opposite is expressed in the second clause: “and give me thy law.” The חנן with a double accusative is: to favour any one with anything, to give him anything.

The אמונה , Psalms 119:30, is always faithfulness, never truth. Thy judgments I have laid down,—as the mark and rule of all my actions.

The sense of Psalms 119:32 is: thankful for thy deliverance, I will be careful to follow thy commandments; comp., as really parallel, Psalms 119:26. Thou enlargest my heart is, “Thou makest me glad by thy salvation,” (comp. Psalms 118:5, and Psalms 119:45 here), in opposition to the former straitness and trouble, Psalms 116:3.

Verses 33-40

Ver. 33. Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy commandments, and I shall keep them even to the end. Ver. 34. Instruct me and I shall keep thy law, and observe it with my whole heart. Ver. 35. Guide me in the path of thy precepts, for I delight in it. Ver. 36. Incline my heart to thy testimonies and not to gain. Ver. 37. Turn thou away my eyes that I may not see deceit, quicken me in thy way. Ver. 38. Fulfil to thy servant thy word which is to thy fear. Ver. 39. Turn away my reproach which I fear, for thy judgments are goad. Ver. 40. Behold I long after thy commandments, through thy righteousness quicken me.

In Psalms 119:33-34, the relation of the prayers and the resolutions is the same as in Psalms 119:27. The עקב stands adverbally as in Psalms 119:112.

Psalms 119:36: and mayest thou not incline it,—as thou lost to the ungodly, whom thou givest over to the power of their passions as a punishment for sinful indulgence (comp. Romans 1:24),— to gain.

Deceit, Psalms 119:37, is all that in which salvation is sought apart from God, idols, human power, &c.; comp. Psalms 60:11, Psalms 31:6, Psalms 40:4, Psalms 62:9. May all this make as little impression upon the Psalmist as if he saw it not. He is determined to obtain salvation only in the ways of God, by faithfulness to his commandment. Quicken me, out of the death of misery to which I am still given over; comp. Psalms 119:17, Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:40, Psalms 119:50, Psalms 116:3.

Which is to thy fear, i.e., which is to those who fear thee; comp. Genesis 18:19; 1 Kings 2:4, 1 Kings 8:25.

The reproach is the object of the fear, Psalms 119:39, in so far as, by its greatness, it filled the Psalmist with the apprehension that he would come to a bad end; comp. Job 9:28. For thy judgments are good, not evil, and the time must therefore be at hand when they shall be turned away from thy church and turned upon the world.—“Therefore” is to be understood before the second clause of Psalms 119:40. The desire after the commandments of God is the distinguishing mark of the righteous, and the pledge of salvation.

Verses 41-48

Ver. 41. May thy tender mercies come to me, O Lord, thy salvation according to thy word. Ver. 42. Give me an answer for those who reproach me, for I trust in thy word. Ver. 43. And take not true discourse altogether away from my mouth, for wait on thy judgments. Ver. 44. And I will observe thy law continually, always and eternally. Ver. 45. And I shall walk in a wide space, for I seek thy commandments. Ver. 46. And I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and not be ashamed. Ver. 47. And I delight in thy commandments which I love. Ver. 48. And I lift up my hands to thy precepts which I love; and I meditate upon thy law.

God, by his gift of salvation, gives an answer for those who reproach; for the want of salvation is the object of the reproach.

True discourse, Psalms 119:48, a well-grounded answer to the reproaching foes. God takes this away when he does not permit his salvation to fail to appear.

The lifting up of the hands, Psalms 119:48, symbolizes the lifting up of the heart; comp. at Psalms 28:2.

Verses 49-56

Ver. 49-56.

Ver 49. Remember to thy servant thy word, because thou hast caused me to hope. Ver. 50. This is my consolation in my misery, that thy word hath quickened me. Ver. 51. The proud hold me greatly in derision, I turn not aside from thy law. Ver. 52. I remember thy judgments from eternity, O Lord, and shall be comforted. Ver. 53. Wrath seizes me because of the wicked who forsake thy law. Ver. 54. Thy laws are my song in the house of my pilgrimage. Ver. 55. I remember thy name during the night, O Lord, and observe thy law. Ver. 56. This I have, that I observe thy precepts. The זכר דבר , in, in Psalms 119:49, is exactly the same as our phrase to keep one’s word. The אל אשר , in the sense of “because,” occurs in Deuteronomy 29:24, 2 Samuel 3:30. The translation, “on which thou hast caused me to hope,” has long since been set aside by the remark that, in this case, the words would have been אשר עליו .

In Psalms 119:50, the quickening is, as always in our Psalm, to be understood of external restoration. And as, according to other passages, the beginning of the quickening and of the salvation was already present, Psalms 119:93, Psalms 119:26, Psalms 119:32, Psalms 119:65, there is no reason for translating “he shall quicken,” instead of “has quickened.” What the word has already done, is to faith a pledge of what it shall yet do.

The object of the contempt of the proud, Psalms 119:51, that is, of the haughty heathen world surrounding Israel, is the contrast between the reality and the idea, the apparently utterly visionary and foolish expectation of the judgment and of the gracious interposition, with which the souls of the Israelites were filled; comp. Psalms 119:42. The Israelites, however, did not permit themselves to be driven away by this reproach, however well-grounded to natural reason it might appear to be, from their faith and their God; they were not seduced to turn aside from his law.

Israel takes refuge in the past from the present, Psalms 119:52. The glorious judgments of God during the entire long course of history, which are just as many gracious interpositions, afford him a pledge that his God, at his own time, will again come out of his concealment, and that the proper relation of the kingdom of God to the world shall be restored. On זלעפה , violent anger, in Psalms 119:53, comp. at Psalms 11:6.

Thy commandments, Psalms 119:54, with the promises annexed in them to obedience, are my song, the object of joyful praise, such as is found in the Psalm before us, in the house of my pilgrimage, the house where I as a pilgrim dwell, i.e., in the condition of helplessness and misery in which I at present find myself; comp. on the figure of pilgrimage Psalms 39:12.

I remember during the night, Psalms 119:55, to which the pain is nearly allied, and in which it is felt in all its elements, and readiest its greatest height, thy name, thy glorious deeds in the past, Psalms 119:52, and observe thy law, full of hope that thy name shall again flourish.

This is to me, Psalms 119:56, this I have, and in it the hope of salvation; comp. Deuteronomy 6:25.

Verses 57-64

Ver. 57. The Lord is my potion, I say that I will keep thy words. Ver. 58. I entreat thee with my whole heart: be gracious to me according to thy word. Ver. 59. I considered my ways, and turned my feet to thy testimonies. Ver. 60. I make haste and delay not to keep thy precepts. Ver. 61. The snares of the wicked surround me, I forget not thy law. Ver. 62. At midnight I rise to praise thee because of the judgments of thy righteousness. Ver. 63. I am a companion to those who feared thee and kept thy commandments. Ver. 64. The earth is full of thy mercy, O Lord, teach me thy commandments.

That we must translate, in Psalms 119:57, “the Lord is my portion,” or even “O Lord my portion,” (not: I say, O Lord, this shall be my portion that I keep thy commandments), is evident, besides the accents (comp. Dachsel in the Bibl. accent.), from Psalms 16:5, Psalms 73:26; it is also evident, from comparing these passages, that the sense is: the Lord is my helper and the author of my salvation. This conviction forms an important reason for resolving to keep the commandments of God. On חלה פנים , to supplicate, Psalms 119:58, comp. at Psalms 45:12.

On Psalms 119:59 comp. Psalms 119:26, Psalms 119:67. The punishment of the captivity led the people to repentance.

At midnight, Psalms 119:62, when the Lord went out among the Egyptians, Exodus 11:4, Exodus 12:29, to which passages also Job 34:20 alludes. The משפטים is not as in Psalms 119:7, but as in Psalms 119:20, Psalms 119:52.

A companion, Psalms 119:63, a sharer with them in their efforts, comp. Psalms 16:3. All who feared thee, viz., the pious men who lived in past ages, Malachi 3:4. At Psalms 119:64, comp. Psalms 119:12, &c. Do thou of whose mercy the earth is full, show mercy to me, &c.

Verses 65-72

Ver. 65. Thou dost good to thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word. Ver. 66. Teach me good understanding and insight, for I believe in thy commandments. Ver. 67. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep thy word. Ver. 68, 69. The proud devise lies against me, I observe with my whole heart thy commandments. Ver. 70. Their heart is coarse as fat, I delight in thy law. Ver. 71. It is good for me that I have been humbled, so that I may learn thy commandments. Ver. 72. The law of thy mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver.

The good done in Psalms 119:65, is the deliverance from captivity, comp. Psalms 119:26, Psalms 119:32, Psalms 119:50.

On טוב , good, comp. at Psalms 27:13, Psalms 31:19. We are to suppose added at “teach me:” by disclosing to me thy law, and writing it on my heart; comp. Psalms 119:12, Psalms 119:64, Psalms 119:68, where the corresponding expression is: teach me thy commandments.

Psalms 119:67 refers to the revolution which had taken place in the minds of the people, in consequence of the captivity, compare Psalms 119:71, Psalms 119:75, and at the עניתי , Psalms 116:10. The אמרה was used of the commandments at Psalms 119:11.

On Psalms 119:68 comp. Psalms 119:12, Psalms 119:64.

Lies, Psalms 119:69, such as the charges of sedition mentioned in Ezra 4. The keeping of the commandments of God, is introduced as the protection against the injurious consequences of slander. More than fat, Psalms 119:70, as a description of spiritual insensibility, hardness, and stupidity, compare at Psalms 17:10, Psalms 73:7. On the second clause comp. Psalms 119:16, Psalms 119:47.

Verses 73-80

Ver. 73. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me, teach me, so that I learn thy commandments. Ver. 74. Those who fear shall see and rejoice, for I wait upon thy word. Ver. 75. I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that in faithfulness thou hast afflicted me. Ver. 76. Let thy mercy comfort me, according to thy word to thy servant. Ver. 77. Let thy compassion come to me, so that I may live, for thy law is my joy. Ver. 78. May the proud be ashamed, for with lies they mortify me, I meditate upon thy commandments. Ver. 79. Those who fear thee shall return to me, and those who know thy testimonies. Ver. 80. May my heart be blameless in thy commandments, that I may not be ashamed.

On Psalms 119:73 compare the fundamental passage, Deuteronomy 32:6. Israel is indebted to God for his whole external and internal existence, as it were for his body and soul.

The sense of Psalms 119:74, is, as appears from comparing the parallel passages, Psalms 5:11, Psalms 34:2, Psalms 52:6, “may those who fear thee obtain occasion for joy by my prosperous fortune.” For I wait upon thy word, and therefore cannot be put to shame.

Psalms 119:75 alludes to Deuteronomy 32:4 (comp. Psalms 119:73), where God is designated as faithful even in reference to the sufferings of his people. Hence אמונה is the nomin. “as faithfulness,” that is, without in the smallest degree violating faithfulness. The knowledge which the church here expresses depends upon conviction of sin. The divine government in reference to Israel’s sufferings is in Deuteronomy 32 based upon Israel’s sinfulness.

On Psalms 119:77 comp. Psalms 119:17.

At Psalms 119:78 we are to suppose added: and cannot therefore be put to shame, have therein the assurance of salvation, comp. Psalms 119:80.

Those who fear thee shall return to me, Psalms 119:79, like the friends of Job, who had been perplexed at him, and returned to him when God restored him. The offence which the fate of the church had caused to the fear of God shall disappear on the return of the church’s salvation.

In thy commandments, Psalms 119:80, in reference to them. So that I may not be ashamed, disappointed in my hope of salvation.

Verses 81-88

Ver. 81. My soul thirsteth for thy word, I wait for thy salvation. Ver. 82. Mine eyes long after thy word, and I say: when wilt thou comfort me. Ver. 83. For I am like a bottle in the smoke, I forget not thy commandments. Ver. 84. How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment upon my persecutors? Ver. 85. The proud have dug pits for me, who are not according to thy law. Ver. 80. All thy commandments are faithfulness, with lies they persecute me, help me. Ver. 87. They have almost destroyed me in the land, and I forsake not thy precepts. Ver. 88. According to thy mercy quicken me, I will keep the testimony of thy mouth.

After thy word, Psalms 119:82, after the fulfilment of thy promise. What the smoke is for the bottle, which is hung in the smoke, an unsuitable position for it, and is thereby destroyed and rendered useless, that suffering is for the church. Being completely exhausted by it, she may well hope that the Lord will soon have mercy upon her, when the condition of salvation, zeal in obeying the law, exists in her, and has not been removed, but has been induced by her sufferings.

In Psalms 119:84 the prayer for judgment upon the enemies, is grounded upon the brevity of the space that is left for the divine recompence, comp. Psalms 39:13. How narrow are the boundaries by which the existence of an individual or of a generation is shut up!

In Psalms 119:86, the commandments come into notice in reference to those promises appended to them, which never deceive.

They have almost destroyed me in the land, Psalms 119:87, as Israel, of whom only a very small remnant now is left, formerly destroyed the Canaanites, 2 Chronicles 8:8. The translation, “to the ground,” arose merely from not observing the national reference. The בארץ is just as in Psalms 119:19.

Verses 89-96

Ver. 89. Eternal art thou, O Lord, thy word stands in heaven. Ver. 90. From generation to generation thy faithfulness endures, thou didst establish the earth and it stood. Ver. 91. For thy judgments they still stand to-day, for everything must serve thee. Ver. 92. If thy law were not my joy I would have perished in my affliction. Ver. 93. I shall not forget thy commandments for ever, for by them thou didst quicken me. Ver. 94. I am thine, help me, for I seek thy commandments, Ver. 95. The wicked wait upon me to annihilate me, I observe thy testimonies. Ver. 90. I see an end of all perfection, thy commandment is exceedingly broad.

Thy word stands, as it were in heaven, Psalms 119:89, is equally eternal with it, which was erected by thee, and received an eternal existence, comp. Psalms 89:2.

And it stood, Psalms 119:90, comp. Psalms 33:9, in proof of thy glory, and, at the same time, of thy eternal faithfulness.

The subject in Psalms 119:91, a. is the heavens, Psalms 119:89, and the earth, Psalms 119:90. They stand for the judgments of God, ready to execute these, as obedient servants; as in the days of old, fire frequently came down from heaven, which consumed the adversaries, and hail which slew the enemies of Israel and destroyed their produce. The translation “to thy arrangements, subject to them, they stand even today,” has against it the standing use of משפטים in the Psalm before us, which always means judgments. The translation “thy arrangements stand even to-day,” does not know how to begin with the second clause.

Thy law Psalms 119:92,—with the promises which are connected with true obedience.

By them, Psalms 119:93, in consequence of the promise appended to them. “thou didst quicken me,” comp. Psalms 119:26, Psalms 119:32, Psalms 119:50, Psalms 119:65.

In reference to קוו לי , Psalms 119:95, comp. at Psalms 56:6.

Exceedingly broad, Psalms 119:96, in opposition to the narrow limits within which human perfection is confined. The opposite “broad,” shows that in the first clause it is not an end as to time, but an end as to space that is meant,

Verses 97-104

Ver. 97. How I love thy law. It is my meditation all the day. Ver. 98. Thy commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they remain eternally with, me. Ver. 99. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation. Ver. 100. I understand more than the ancients, for I observe thy precepts. Ver. 101. I keep my feet from all wicked ways, so that I keep thy words. Ver. 102. I deviate not from thy judgments, because thou teachest me. Ver. 103. How pleasant are thy words to my taste, more than honey to my mouth. Ver. 104. From thy precepts I shall get understanding, therefore I hate every lying way.

Than my enemies, Psalms 119:98,—with all their carnal sagacity and cunning, or which, in my simplicity, I am destitute, Psalms 116:6. They never find, with it all, the way or salvation, to which obedience to the commandments of God alone furnishes access. The commandments form one complete whole; thy commandments = thy law תורה ; hence the explanation of the singular of the verb and the היא . For they are eternally with me, and thus the preeminence in wisdom over my enemies is secured to me.

The teachers in Psalms 119:99, and the ancients in Psalms 119:100, appear as the depositories of natural knowledge. The man who possesses this in the highest degree stands infinitely below him to whom in divine revelation there has been laid open the fountain of true knowledge. Luther: “Antiquity is no help against stupidity, where it does not accord with the commandments of God.”

The teaching in Psalms 119:102 is inward in its character, comp. Psalms 119:33.

The discourse, Psalms 119:103, comprehends a series of individual precepts: hence the explanation of the plural of the verb. It is evident from Psalms 119:147, and the fundamental passage Psalms 19:10, that the language does not refer to the promises but to the precepts, comp. Psalms 119:67.

On “the way of lies,” Psalms 119:104, comp. at Psalms 119:29.

Verses 105-112

Ver. 105. Thy word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my way. Ver. 106. I did swear, and I will do it, to observe the judgments of thy righteousness. Ver. 107. I am severely humbled; O Lord, quicken me according to thy word. Ver. 108. Let me free-will offerings of my mouth please thee, O Lord, and teach me thy judgments. Ver. 100. My soul is continually in my hand, and I forget not thy law. Ver. 110. The wicked lay snares for me, but I deviate not from thy precepts. Ver. 111. Thy testimonies I appropriate to myself for ever, for they are the joy of my heart. Ver. 112. I incline my heart to do thy commandments, eternally and without end.

I did swear, Psalms 119:106, at Sinai and in the fields of Moab.

The fountain for the oft-repeated, “quicken me according to thy word,” Psalms 119:107, is, as appears specially Leviticus 18:5 (comp. Deuteronomy 6:24), where life its promised to the people if they would observe the commandments and judgments of the Lord.

The prayers in Psalms 119:108 are represented as spiritual prayer-offerings. Comp. Psalms 50:14-15.

My soul is my hand, Psalms 119:109,—we put into our hands what we are resolved to give away (comp. Judges 12:3, 1 Samuel 19:5)—therefore, my life is continually in danger.

The נחל in Psalms 119:111 is to take into possession. There is a reference to the passage of the law, where the נחל is used of occupancy of Canaan, for example Exodus 23:30. The law is a possession of no less value than the land flowing with milk and honey.

Verses 113-120

Ver. 113. I hate doubtful men, and I love thy law. Ver. 114. My hiding place and my shield art thou, I wait upon thy word. Ver. 115. Depart from me, ye evil doers, I will keep the commandments of my God. Ver. 116. Uphold me according to thy word, that I may live, and let me not be ashamed of my hope. Ver. 117. Stand by me, so that I shall be delivered, thus shall I look continually to thy commandments. Ver. 118. Thou castest down all who wander from thy commandments, for lie is their deceit. Ver. 119. As dross thou dost annihilate all the wicked of the earth, therefore I love thy testimonies. Ver. 120. I am afraid before thee, so that my skin shivers, and I dread thy judgments.

Doubters, Psalms 119:113, the סֵ אֵ ף , a divided man, ἀ?νὴδίψυχος , James 1:8.

Depart from me, Psalms 119:115, is “you can do nothing with me because, &c.,” compare at Psalms 6:8.

Lie is their deceit, Psalms 119:118, all their cunning and deceit, with which they seek to destroy the godly, leads to nothing.

The judgments, in Psalms 119:120, are the great judgments of the Lord in past ages, comp. Habakkuk 3:2: “O Lord, I heard thy call (the call of thy great judgments in the days of old), I was afraid.” Joyful hope goes hand in hand with fear.

Verses 121-128

Ver. 121. I practice justice and righteousness, thou shalt not give me up to my oppressors. Ver. 122. Be surety for thy servant, so that it may be well with him, let not the proud oppress me. Ver. 123. Mine eyes long after thy salvation, and after the word of thy righteousness. Ver. 124. Deal with thy servant according to thy mercy, and teach me thy commandments. Ver. 125. I am thy servant, instruct me and let me know thy testimonies. Ver. 126. It is time for the Lord to do it, they break thy law. Ver. 127. Therefore I love thy commandments more than gold and fine gold. Ver. 128. Therefore I approve of every one of thy commandments, I hate every way of lies.— For good, Psalms 119:122, so that it may be well with him, comp. Deuteronomy 6:24, Deuteronomy 10:13, Deuteronomy 30:9.

After the word of thy righteousness, Psalms 119:123, the fulfilment of thy promise, which Thou, the Righteous One, who givest to every one his own, salvation to him to whom it has been promised, hast given.

Deal with thy servant, Psalms 119:124: “What ought to be done” lies concealed in “according to thy mercy,” comp. at Psalms 109:21.

In Psalms 119:126 the common translation is: it is time for the Lord to work. But this sense is not ascertained. What the Lord has to do, is left out. “They break thy law,” by no means compels to think of “the rebellious Jews.” In Isaiah 24:5, the transgression of the law and of the commandments of God is laid to the charge of the inhabitants of the world, and represented as the ground of the judgments executed upon them, comp. Romans 2:12, ss. The law has a general human basis; the book of Job makes it manifest that this was clearly acknowledged under the Old Testament. Here we are especially to think of the violation of the righteousness commanded by God, and of love, in the conduct of the heathen towards Israel.

Psalms 119:127 depends upon Psalms 19:10. Therefore, because of the glory of thy law which had been so much praised in the preceding parts of the Psalm. This general reference is more suitable to the character of the Psalm than the special one to the preceding verse.

Psalms 119:128 is literally, “all the precepts upon everything,” or whatever they may concern, all without exception, comp. Ezekiel 44:30, and also Numbers 8:16. The connection makes it abundantly evident that the language refers to the commandments of God. The expression rejects eclecticism of every kind in reference to the word of God, in accordance with Matthew 5:17-19.

Verses 129-136

Ver. 129. Thy testimonies are wonderful, therefore my soul keeps them. Ver. 130. The opening up of thy word gives light, it instructs the simple. Ver. 131. I open my mouth, and pine, for I long after thy commandments. Ver. 132. Turn to me and be gracious to me, as it is right for those who love thy name. Ver. 133. Strengthen my footsteps by thy words, and let no iniquity obtain dominion over me. Ver. 134. Deliver me from the oppression of men, so will. I keep thy commandments. Ver. 135. Let thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach Me thy commandments. Ver. 136. Mine eyes become brooks of wafer, because they keep not thy law.

The opening up of the word of God, Psalms 119:130, is the explanation of the sense of the word imparted by God through his spirit, of which the Psalmist speaks so often and so impressively. To the natural man the doors the word of God are shut. Those who love the name of God, God in his historical glory, have a right to the manifestations of his grace, Psalms 119:132, not a human but a divine right, resting upon the nature of God, as it is revealed in his word. It is evident from Psalms 119:134 a. that the language in Psalms 119:133 b. refers to the external dominion of unrighteousness, the oppression of enemies. We must hence refer the strengthening of the footsteps in the first clause to the external condition, comp. Psalms 40:2. Through thy word = according to thy word, Psalms 119:116, by thy faithfulness, in virtue of thy promise.

On Psalms 119:135 a. comp. Psalms 80:3, Psalms 80:7.

The first clause of Psalms 119:136 is from Lamentations 3:48, compare Jeremiah 9:17. We must translate: dissolved in water brooks, like water brooks mine eyes come down, comp. Ew. § 281 e. The whole clause after על is treated like a noun, as is the case in Isaiah 53:9, on account of their not observing, because they do not observe, namely, in their conduct towards me; comp. the passage already referred to of Lam.: “because of the destroying of the daughter of my people,” comp. Psalms 119:139.

Verses 137-144

Ver. 137. Just art thou, O Lord, and righteous in thy judgments. Ver. 138. Thou hast prescribed thy testimonies, that they are righteous and very faithful. Ver. 139. My zeal consumes me, that my adversaries forget thy words. Ver. 140. Thy word is very pure, and thy servant loves it. Ver. 141. I am small and despised, I forget not thy precepts. Ver. 142. Thy righteousness is an eternal righteousness, and thy law is truth. Ver. 143. Trouble and oppression found me, thy commandments are my joy. Ver. 144. Righteous are thy testimonies for ever, instruct me that I may live. The ישר in Psalms 119:137 refers to the Lord, according to the fundamental passage Deuteronomy 32:4, and the משפטיך is the accus. Ew. § 281 c.

The testimonies in Psalms 119:138, as is obvious from the first clause, come into notice according to the promise annexed to them, compare at Psalms 119:86, Psalms 93:5. Very faithful, so that they do not deceive those who keep them.

On Psalms 119:139 compare Psalms 69:9. That they forget, in their conduct towards me.

Psalms 119:140 depends upon Psalms 18:30. Thy word, according to promise and precept.

Psalms 119:142 a. is equivalent to “thy righteousness endureth for ever,” comp. Psalms 115:16, “the heaven is heaven for the Lord.” The righteousness of God, the property according to which he gives to every one his own, to his own people salvation (compare Psalms 111:3), appears to outward appearance to be now dead. But the Psalmist perceives in faith its eternal duration. Thy law is true; it cannot therefore deceive as to its promises.

At מצא in Psalms 119:143 compare Psalms 116:3.

Instruct me, Psalms 119:144,—in thy testimonies which do not feed those who observe them with vain hopes, but bring to them a sure reward.

Verses 145-152

Ver. 145. I call with my whole heart; answer me, O Lord, so shall I keep thy commandments. Ver. 146. I call upon thee, help me, so shall I keep thy testimonies. Ver. 147. I anticipate the dawning of the day, and cry, I wait for thy words. Ver. 148. My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate upon thy word. Ver. 149. Hear my voice according to thy mercy, O Lord, according to thy righteousness quicken me. Ver. 150. Those are near who hunt after wickedness, they are far from thy law. Ver. 151. Thou art near, O Lord, and all thy commandments are truth. Ver. 152. Long ago I knew out of thy testimonies that thou hast founded them for ever.

On קדם , to anticipate, comp. at Psalms 95:2. Great zeal in prayer is described in the same way in Psalms 88:13: “But I cry to thee, O Lord, and in the morning my prayer shall anticipate thee.” The “thee” is easily supplied from the connection; for it is to God that the discourse is directed. The dawning is the dawning of the morning.

The eyes of the Psalmist anticipate the night watches, Psalms 119:148, inasmuch as they are awake when the night watches come; therefore the expression means, “The night watches find me awake.” Comp. Psalms 63:6, Psalms 77:4, Lamentations 2:19.

The judgments of God, in Psalms 119:149, are, those righteous principles which are founded on his own nature, and revealed in his law, according to which salvation must be the portion of the righteous, destruction that of the wicked, comp. Psalms 119:156, Psalms 119:175.

They are far from thy law, Psalms 119:150,—the nearer they are to me, the farther are they from the law.

Thy commandments, Psalms 119:151,—with the promises which accompany them.

Long since, Psalms 119:152, from my first existence. The law itself proceeds throughout on the supposition of its eternal obligation, as it received its institution from the Lord. The formula, for example, is one of constant occurrence: an eternal commandment for your generations.

Verses 153-160

Ver. 153. Behold my misery, and deliver me, for I forget not thy law. Ver. 154. Fight my fight, and deliver me, according to thy word quicken me. Ver. 155. Salvation is far from the wicked, for they inquire not after thy commandments. Ver. 156. Thy compassion is great, O Lord, according to thy judgments quicken me. Ver. 157. Of my persecutors and opponents there are many; I deviate not from thy testimonies. Ver. 158. I behold the faithless, and am vexed, who keep not thy word. Ver. 159. Behold that I love thy commandments; O Lord, according to thy mercy quicken me. Ver. 160. The sum of thy word is truth, and every judgment of thy righteousness endureth for ever.

On “fight my fight,” comp. at Psalms 43:1. On “deliver me,” Psalms 69:18.

According to thy judgments, Psalms 119:156, comp. at Psalms 119:149.

In Psalms 119:158, the prayer that God would put an end to the oppressive sight stands in the back ground. On בגד , at Psalms 25:3. It is used here of faithlessness towards our neighbours; apparently, as in Isaiah 21:2, of the violation of special relations.

The sum, Psalms 119:160, the whole body, Luther: “Thy word is nothing but truth.”

Verses 161-168

Ver. 161. Princes persecute me without cause, and my heart quakes before thy words. Ver. 162. I rejoice over thy word, as one who findeth much spoil. Ver. 163. I hate lies and feel horror at them, I love thy law. Ver. 164. Seven times a-day I praise thee, because of the judgments of thy righteousness. Ver. 165. Great peace have they who love thy law, and they find nothing to offend them. Ver. 166. I hope in thy salvation, O Lord, and do thy commandments. Ver. 167. My soul holds thy testimonies, and I love them very much. Ver. 168. I hold thy commandments and thy testimonies, for all my ways are before thee.

My heart quakes, Psalms 119:161, with reverence, which excludes fear, and goes hand in hand with joyful hope, comp. Psalms 119:120. The words are the glorious promises which the Lord gives to his people and his threatenings against his enemies, comp., for example, Deuteronomy 32.

On “lying,” at Psalms 119:163, comp. at Psalms 119:29.

By the “judgments of the Lord,” in Psalms 119:160, we ought to understand that both the righteous actions or judgments, and his righteous sayings or his law, are meant, comp. Psalms 119:62, Psalms 119:165.

All my ways are before thee, Psalms 119:168,—thou who art the righteous recompenser knowest them.

Verses 169-176

Ver. 169. Let my prayer come before thee, Lord; according to thy word instruct me. Ver. 170. Let my prayer come before thee: according to thy word deliver me. Ver. 171. My lips shall stream forth with thy praise, when thou teachest me thy commandments. Ver. 172. My tongue shall respond to thy word, for all thy commandments are righteousness. Ver. 173. Let thy hand help me, for I choose thy commandments. Ver. 174. I long after thy salvation, O Lord, and thy law is my delight. Ver. 175. Let my soul live and praise thee, and let thy judgments help me. Ver. 176. I went astray like a lost sheep, seek thy servant, for I forget not thy commandments.

In Psalms 119:169-170, the two prayers of the Psalmist, the one for strength to fulfil the law, and the other for external deliverance, are inseparably connected together. The fulfilment of the first is the basis of the fulfilment of the second, comp. Psalms 90:11-17. According to thy word instruct me,—in accordance with thy promise, Psalms 119:25, Psalms 119:65, Psalms 119:107, as given for example in Deuteronomy 30:6: “And the Lord circumcise thy heart, and the heart of the seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live.”—הביע , Psalms 119:171, is to cause to bubble up, Psalms 19:2, Psalms 78:2.

The ענה in Psalms 119:172 has its usual sense, to respond, comp. Psalms 147:7. Every expression in which we praise God, his word, or his works, is a response.

Thy law, Psalms 119:174, with its promises.

Thy judgments, Psalms 119:175, comp. Psalms 119:149, Psalms 119:156.

The “going astray” in Psalms 119:170 is a figurative expression denoting helplessness; or, the sufferer appears under the figure of one who has gone astray. A lost sheep is one which has escaped from the flock and the shepherd, comp. Jeremiah 50:6.

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 119". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-119.html.