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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 139

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-6

The Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence of God.

To the chief musician, for performance in the liturgical part of public worship, a psalm of David, in which he first describes the chief attributes of God and then adds a prayer for a pure heart and a faultless conduct. David addresses himself, first of all, to the omniscient God, vv. 1-6.

v. 1. O Lord, Thou hast searched me, making a careful survey of his innermost heart and mind, and known me, having a full understanding of all the motives which prompted his every thought and act.

v. 2. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, every movement which every person in the world makes; Thou understandest my thought afar off, being familiar with it even before the desire is fully formed or the idea takes shape.

v. 3. Thou compassest my path and my lying down, literally, "my walking and my lying down Thou siftest," that is, the Lord proves it out; He weighs it even before it happens and while the act is going on, and art acquainted with all my ways, his entire conduct being uncovered before the eyes of God's omniscience.

v. 4. For there is not a word in my tongue, uttered or unuttered, but, lo, O Lord, stated with emphasis, Thou knowest it altogether, in every respect, both as to motive and performance.

v. 5. Thou hast beset me behind and before, so that there is no way for him to escape from the Lord's surveillance, and laid Thine hand upon me, holding him in bounds, guarding against an unbridled use of freedom, for the consciousness of the omniscience of God will act as a curb against an undue assertion of what men claim as their rights. The contemplation of these facts causes David to cry out:

v. 6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, it is beyond the reach of man's mind; it is high, I cannot attain unto it; it is beyond man's comprehension, it is an article of faith.

Verses 7-12

David next sets forth the omnipresence of God, vv. 7-12.

v. 7. Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? the Spirit of God and God Himself being identified in all their acts. Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? in a strenuous effort to escape from the Lord after some act challenging the vengeance of the Lord. Is it possible to find a place where His presence is not found, to which His arm does not extend?

v. 8. If I ascend up into heaven, Thou art there, for there is the throne of His majesty; if I make my bed in hell, the realm of the dead, behold, Thou art there. Cf Amos 9:2; Job 26:6.

v. 9. If I take the wings of the morning, or, "of the dawn," as it rises upward with the speed of wings and spreads over the eastern heaven, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, in the most remote part of the universe,

v. 10. even there shall Thy hand lead me, with the guiding power of omnipresent providence, and Thy right hand shall hold me, for God is everywhere.

v. 11. If I say, as criminals are wont to do, since vice and crime seek the cover of night, Surely the darkness shall cover me, making him invisible to the eyes of the Lord, even the night shall be light about me, for with God, who Himself is the Source of light, there is no distinction between day and night, His eye pierces the darkness of created night as though it were the brightest noonday.

v. 12. Yea, the darkness hideth not from Thee, it cannot produce a darkness which His eye cannot penetrate; but the night shineth as the day, emitting light at His command; the darkness and the light are both alike to Thee, literally, "as is darkness, so is light," it makes no difference to Him whose omnipresence is aided by His omniscience, before whom nothing in all the universe is hidden.

Verses 13-24

David now describes the creative power and providence of God and adds a prayer extolling the Lord and appealing for a just trial.

v. 13. For Thou hast possessed my reins, that is, formed, framed, fashioned the organs of his body in creation; Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb, that is, plaited or weaved the body before birth, as the bones, sinews, and flesh took shape.

v. 14. I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made, in a manner which produces awe and reverence at the miracle of creation. Marvelous are Thy works, those of creation in general, and that my soul knoweth right well, being impressed with these miracles on every hand.

v. 15. My substance, that is, the bones, the framework of the body, was not hid from Thee when I was made in secret and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, literally, "wrought in various colors," on account of the veining of the body and the different colors of its various organs and parts, the reference to God's creative act in the case of each human being including a reference to the original creation of man out of the dust of the earth.

v. 16. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect, while he was still in the form of an embryo, and in Thy book all my members were written, or rather, all the days of his life, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them, that is, among the days planned in God's counsel there was also one which was destined for the creation of David, in other words, beginning, development, and completion of all creatures take place according to God's creative counsel. The contemplation of this power of God, as revealed in the act of God's creation of man, fills the poet's heart with adoring praise.

v. 17. How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! weighty, important, full of deep significance. How great is the sum of them, how overpowering in their total amount! the human mind being unable to grasp their great number and meaning.

v. 18. If I should count them, attempting to keep account of them, they are more in number than the sand, innumerable for a mere human being. When I awake, having fallen asleep in the futile attempt to form an adequate picture of their number, I am still with Thee, still engaged in the contemplation of God, the incomprehensible, still thinking about His counsels and dealings.

v. 19. Surely Thou wilt slay the wicked, O God, to whom the believer's faith in the Lord is a source of mockery; depart from me therefore, ye bloody men, those whose consciences are burdened with blood-guilt.

v. 20. For they speak against Thee wickedly, having evil designs in their hearts, and Thine enemies take Thy name in vain, speaking of Him, mentioning Him, with craftiness and deceit, such enmity against God always resulting in sins and crimes of every kind.

v. 21. Do not I hate them, O Lord, rather, "Should not I hate those," that hate Thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee? abhorring the adversaries of Jehovah with perfection of hatred.

v. 22. I hate them with perfect hatred, with the very extremity of abhorrence, but without personal bitterness or self-exaltation; I count them mine enemies; for those whom God considers His adversaries must be so considered by His believers.

v. 23. Search me, O God, and know my heart, to prevent all deception of self; try me and know my thoughts, testing them out for their sincerity;

v. 24. and see if there be any wicked way in me, literally, "a way of grief," namely, that leading to punishment for sins committed, and lead me in the way everlasting, that agreeing with His will, the way of righteousness, which endures forever, for that is the desire of all believers.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Psalms 139". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/psalms-139.html. 1921-23.
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