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Bible Commentaries

Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament
Psalms 139

 

 

Introduction

Adoration of the Omniscient and Omnipresent One

In this Aramaizing Psalm what the preceding Psalm says in Psalms 139:6 comes to be carried into effect, viz.: for Jahve is exalted and He seeth the lowly, and the proud He knoweth from afar . This Psalm has manifold points of contact with its predecessor. From a theological point of view it is one of the most instructive of the Psalms, and both as regards its contents and poetic character in every way worthy of David. But it is only inscribed לדוד because it is composed after the Davidic model, and is a counterpart to such Psalms as Psalms 19:1-14 and to other Davidic didactic Psalms. For the addition למנצח neither proves its ancient Davidic origin, nor in a general way its origin in the period prior to the Exile, as Ps 74 for example shows, which was at any rate not composed prior to the time of the Chaldaean catastrophe.

The Psalm falls into three parts: Psalms 139:1, Psalms 139:13, Psalms 139:19; the strophic arrangement is not clear. The first part celebrates the Omniscient and Omnipresent One. The poet knows that he is surrounded on all sides by God's knowledge and His presence; His Spirit is everywhere and cannot be avoided; and His countenance is turned in every direction and inevitably, in wrath or in love. In the second part the poet continues this celebration with reference to the origin of man; and in the third part he turns in profound vexation of spirit towards the enemies of such a God, and supplicates for himself His proving and guidance. In Psalms 139:1 and Psalms 139:4 God is called Jahve , in Psalms 139:17 El , in Psalms 139:19 Eloha , in Psalms 139:21 again Jahve , and in Psalms 139:23 again El . Strongly as this Psalm is marked by the depth and pristine freshness of its ideas and feeling, the form of its language is still such as is without precedent in the Davidic age. To all appearance it is the Aramaeo-Hebrew idiom of the post-exilic period pressed into the service of poetry. The Psalm apparently belongs to those Psalms which, in connection with a thoroughly classical character of form, bear marks of the influence which the Aramaic language of the Babylonian kingdom exerted over the exiles. This influence affected the popular dialect in the first instance, but the written language also did not escape it, as the Books of Daniel and Ezra show; and even the poetry of the Psalms is not without traces of this retrograde movement of the language of Israel towards the language of the patriarchal ancestral house. In the Cod. Alex . Ζαχαρίου is added to the τῷ Δαυίδ ψαλμός , and by a second hand ἐν τῇ διασπορᾷ , which Origen also met with “in some copies.”


Verses 1-7

The Aramaic forms in this strophe are the ἅπαξ λεγομ רע (ground-form רעי ) in Psalms 139:2 and Psalms 139:17, endeavour, desire, thinking, like רעוּת and רעיון in the post-exilic books, from רעה ( רעא ), cupere , cogitare ; and the ἅπ. λεγ . רבע in Psalms 139:3, equivalent to רבץ , a lying down, if רבעי be not rather an infinitive like בּלעי in Job 7:19, since ארחי is undoubtedly not inflected from ארח , but, as being infinitive, like עברי in Deuteronomy 4:21, from ארח ; and the verb ארח also, with the exception of this passage, only occurs in the speeches of Elihu (Job 34:8), which are almost more strongly Aramaizing than the Book of Job itself. Further, as an Aramaizing feature we have the objective relation marked by Lamed in the expression בּנתּה לרעי , Thou understandest my thinking, as in Psalms 116:16; Psalms 129:3; Psalms 135:11; Psalms 136:19. The monostichic opening is after the Davidic style, e.g., Psalms 23:1 . Among the prophets, Isaiah in particular is fond of such thematic introductions as we have here in Psalms 139:1 . On ותּדע instead of ותּדעני vid., on Psalms 107:20; the pronominal object stands once beside the first verb, or even beside the second (2 Kings 9:25), instead of twice (Hitzig). The “me” is then expanded: sitting down, rising up, walking and lying, are the sum of human conditions or states. רעי is the totality or sum of the life of the spirit and soul of man, and דּרכי the sum of human action. The divine knowledge, as ותּדע says, is the result of the scrutiny of man. The poet, however, in Psalms 139:2 and Psalms 139:3 uses the perfect throughout as a mood of that which is practically existing, because that scrutiny is a scrutiny that is never unexecuted, and the knowledge is consequently an ever-present knowledge. מרחוק is meant to say that He sees into not merely the thought that is fully fashioned and matured, but even that which is being evolved. זרית from זרה is combined by Luther (with Azulai and others) with זר , a wreath (from זרר , constringere, cingere ), inasmuch as he renders: whether I walk or lie down, Thou art round about me ( Ich gehe oder lige , so bistu umb mich ). זרה ought to have the same meaning here, if with Wetzstein one were to compare the Arabic, and more particularly Beduin, drrâ , dherrâ , to protect; the notion of affording protection does not accord with this train of thought, which has reference to God's omniscience: what ought therefore to be meant is a hedging round which secures its object to the knowledge, or even a protecting that places it in security against any exchanging, which will not suffer the object to escape it.

(Note: This Verb. tert. Arab. w et y is old, and the derivative dherâ , protection, is an elegant word; with reference to another derivative, dherwe , a wall of rock protecting one from the winds, vid., Job, at Job 24:7, note. The II form ( Piel ) signifies to protect in the widest possible sense, e.g., (in Neshwân , ii. 343 b ), “[Arab.] drâ 'l - šâh , he protected the sheep (against being exchanged) by leaving a lock of wool upon their backs when they were shorn, by which they might be recognised among other sheep.”)

The Arabic ḏrâ , to know, which is far removed in sound, is by no means to be compared; it is related to Arab. dr' , to push, urge forward, and denotes knowledge that is gained by testing and experimenting. But we also have no need of that Arab. ḏrâ , to protect, since we can remain within the range of the guaranteed Hebrew usage, inasmuch as זרה , to winnow, i.e., to spread out that which has been threshed and expose it to the current of the wind, in Arabic likewise ḏrrâ , (whence מזרה , midhrâ , a winnowing-fork, like רחת , racht , a winnowing-shovel), gives an appropriate metaphor. Here it is equivalent to: to investigate and search out to the very bottom; lxx, Symmachus, and Theodotion, ἐξιξηνίασας , after which the Italic renders investigasti , and Jerome eventilasti . הסכּין with the accusative, as in Job 22:21 with עם : to enter into neighbourly, close, familiar relationship, or to stand in such relationship, with any one; cogn. שׁכן , Arab. skn . God is acquainted with all our ways not only superficially, but closely and thoroughly, as that to which He is accustomed.

In Psalms 139:4 this omniscience of God is illustratively corroborated with כּי ; Psalms 139:4 has the value of a relative clause, which, however, takes the form of an independent clause. מלּה (pronounced by Jerome in his letter to Sunnia and Fretela, §82, MALA ) is an Aramaic word that has been already incorporated in the poetry of the Davidico-Salomonic age. כלּהּ signifies both all of it and every one. In Psalms 139:5 Luther has been misled by the lxx and Vulgate, which take צוּר in the signification formare (whence צוּרה , forma ); it signifies, as the definition “behind and before” shows, to surround, encompass. God is acquainted with man, for He holds him surrounded on all sides, and man can do nothing, if God, whose confining hand he has lying upon him (Job 9:23), does not allow him the requisite freedom of motion. Instead of דּעתּך (XX ἡ γνῶσίς σου ) the poet purposely says in Psalms 139:6 merely דּעת : a knowledge, so all-penetrating, all-comprehensive as God's knowledge. The Kerî reads פּליאה , but the Chethîb פּלאיּה is supported by the Chethîb פּלאי in Judges 13:18, the Kerî of which there is not פּליא , but פּלי (the pausal form of an adjective פּלי , the feminine of which would be פּליּה ). With ממּנּי the transcendence, with נשׂגּבה the unattainableness, and with להּ לא־אוּכל the incomprehensibleness of the fact of the omniscience of God is expressed, and with this, to the mind of the poet, coincides God's omnipresence; for true, not merely phenomenal, knowledge is not possible without the immanence of the knowing one in the thing known. God, however, is omnipresent, sustaining the life of all things by His Spirit, and revealing Himself either in love or in wrath - what the poet styles His countenance. To flee from this omnipresence ( מן , away from), as the sinner and he who is conscious of his guilt would gladly do, is impossible. Concerning the first אנּה , which is here accented on the ultima , vid., on Psalms 116:4.


Verses 8-12

The future form אסּק , customary in the Aramaic, may be derived just as well from סלק ( סלק ), by means of the same mode of assimilation as in יסּב = יסבּב , as from נסק ( נסק ), which latter is certainly only insecurely established by Daniel 6:24, להנסקה (cf. להנזקת , Ezra 4:22; הנפּק , Daniel 5:2), since the Nun , as in להנעלה , Daniel 4:3, can also be a compensation for the resolved doubling (vid., Bernstein in the Lexicon Chrestom. Kirschianae , and Levy s.v. נסק ). אם with the simple future is followed by cohortatives (vid., on Psalms 73:16) with the equivalent אשּׂא among them: et si stratum facerem ( mihi ) infernum (accusative of the object as in Isaiah 58:5), etc. In other passages the wings of the sun (Malachi 4:2) and of the wind (Psalms 18:11) are mentioned, here we have the wings of the morning's dawn. Pennae aurorae , Eugubinus observes (1548), est velocissimus aurorae per omnem mundum decursus . It is therefore to be rendered: If I should lift wings ( נשׂא כנפים as in Ezekiel 10:16, and frequently) such as the dawn of the morning has, i.e., could I fly with the swiftness with which the dawn of the morning spreads itself over the eastern sky, towards the extreme west and alight there. Heaven and Hades, as being that which is superterrestrial and subterrestrial, and the east and west are set over against one another. אחרית ים is the extreme end of the sea (of the Mediterranean with the “isles of the Gentiles”). In Psalms 139:10 follows the apodosis: nowhere is the hand of God, which governs everything, to be escaped, for dextera Dei ubique est . ואמר (not ואמר , Ezekiel 13:15), “therefore I spake,” also has the value of a hypothetical protasis: quodsi dixerim . אך and חשׁך belongs together: merae tenebrae ( vid : Psalms 39:6.); but ישׁוּפני is obscure. The signification secured to it of conterere, contundere , in Genesis 3:15; Job 9:17, which is followed by the lxx (Vulgate) καταπατήσει , is inappropriate to darkness. The signification inhiare , which may be deduced as possible from שׁאף , suits relatively better, yet not thoroughly well (why should it not have been יבלעני ?). The signification obvelare , however, which one expects to find, and after which the Targum, Symmachus, Jerome, Saadia, and others render it, seems only to be guessed at from the connection, since שׁוּף has not this signification in any other instance, and in favour of it we cannot appeal either to נשׁף - whence נשׁף , which belongs together with נשׁב , נשׁם , and נפשׁ - or to עטף , the root of which is עת ( עתה ), or to צעף , whence צעיף , which does not signify to cover, veil, but according to Arab. ḍ‛f , to fold, fold together, to double. We must therefore either assign to ישׁוּפני the signification operiat me without being able to prove it, or we must put a verb of this signification in its place, viz., ישׂוּכני (Ewald) or יעוּפני (Böttcher), which latter is the more commendable here, where darkness ( חשׁך , synon. עיפה , מעוּף ) is the subject: and if I should say, let nothing but darkness cover me, and as night (the predicate placed first, as in Amos 4:13) let the light become about me, i.e., let the light become night that shall surround and cover me ( בּעדני , poetic for בּעדי , like תּחתּני in 2 Sam. 22) - the darkness would spread abroad no obscurity (Psalms 105:28) that should extend beyond ( מן ) Thy piercing eye and remove me from Thee. In the word יאיר , too, the Hiphil signification is not lost: the night would give out light from itself, as if it were the day; for the distinction of day and night has no conditioning influence upon God, who is above and superior to all created things ( der Uebercreatürliche ), who is light in Himself. The two כ are correlative, as e.g., in 1 Kings 22:4. חשׁיכה (with a superfluous Jod ) is an old word, but אורה (cf. Aramaic אורתּא ) is a later one.


Verses 13-18

The fact that man is manifest to God even to the very bottom of his nature, and in every place, is now confirmed from the origin of man. The development of the child in the womb was looked upon by the Israelitish Chokma as one of the greatest mysteries, Ecclesiastes 11:5; and here the poet praises this coming into being as a marvellous work of the omniscient and omnipresent omnipotence of God. קנה here signifies condere ; and סכך not: to cover, protect, as in Psalms 140:8; Job 40:22, prop. to cover with network, to hedge in, but: to plait, interweave, viz., with bones, sinews, and veins, like שׂכך in Job 10:11. The reins are made specially prominent in order to mark the, the seat of the tenderest, most secret emotions, as the work of Him who trieth the heart and the reins. The προσευχή becomes in Psalms 139:14 the εὐχαριστία : I give thanks unto Thee that I have wonderfully come into being under fearful circumstances, i.e., circumstances exciting a shudder, viz., of astonishment ( נוראות as in Psalms 65:6). נפלה (= נפלא ) is the passive to הפלה , Psalms 4:4; Psalms 17:7. Hitzig regards נפליתה (Thou hast shown Thyself wonderful), after the lxx, Syriac, Vulgate, and Jerome, as the only correct reading; but the thought which is thereby gained comes indeed to be expressed in the following line, Psalms 139:14 , which sinks down into tautology in connection with this reading. `otsem (collectively equivalent to עצמים , Ecclesiastes 11:5) is the bones, the skeleton, and, starting from that idea, more generally the state of being as a sum-total of elements of being. אשׁר , without being necessarily a conjunction (Ew. §333, a ), attaches itself to the suffix of עצמי . רקּם , “to be worked in different colours, or also embroidered,” of the system of veins ramifying the body, and of the variegated colouring of its individual members, more particularly of the inward parts; perhaps, however, more generally with a retrospective conception of the colours of the outline following the undeveloped beginning, and of the forming of the members and of the organism in general.

(Note: In the Talmud the egg of a bird or of a reptile is called מרקּמת , when the outlines of the developed embryo are visible in it; and likewise the mole ( mola ), when traces of human; organization can be discerned in it.)

The mother's womb is here called not merely סתר (cf. Aeschylus' Eumenides , 665: ἐν σκοτοισι νηδύος τεθραμμένη , and the designation of the place where the foetus is formed as “a threefold darkness' in the Koran, Sur . xxxix. 8), the of which is retained here in pause (vid., Böttcher, Lehrbuch , §298), but by a bolder appellation תּחתּיּות ארץ , the lowest parts of the earth, i.e., the interior of the earth (vid., on Psalms 63:10) as being the secret laboratory of the earthly origin, with the same retrospective reference to the first formation of the human body out of the dust of the earth, as when Job says, Job 1:21 : “naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither” - שׁמּה , viz., εἰς τὴν γῆν τὴν μητέρα πάντων , Sir. 40:1. The interior of Hades is also called בּטן שׁאול in Jonah 2:2, Sir. 51:5. According to the view of Scripture the mode of Adam's creation is repeated in the formation of every man, Job 33:6, cf. Job 33:4. The earth was the mother's womb of Adam, and the mother's womb out of which the child of Adam comes forth is the earth out of which it is taken.

Psalms 139:16

The embryo folded up in the shape of an egg is here called גּלם , from גּלם , to roll or wrap together (cf. glomus , a ball), in the Talmud said of any kind of unshapen mass (lxx ἀκατέργαστον , Symmachus ἀμόρφωτον ) and raw material, e.g., of the wood or metal that is to be formed into a vessel ( Chullin 25 a , to which Saadia has already referred).

(Note: Epiphanius, Haer , xxx. §31, says the Hebrew γολμη signifies the peeled grains of spelt or wheat before they are mixed up and backed, the still raw (only bruised) flour-grains - a signification that can now no longer be supported by examples.)

As to the rest, compare similar retrospective glances into the embryonic state in Job 10:8-12, 2 Macc. 7:22f. ( Psychology , S. 209ff., tr. pp. 247f.). On the words in libro tuo Bellarmine makes the following correct observation: quia habes apud te exemplaria sive ideas omnium, quomodo pictor vel sculptor scit ex informi materia quid futurum sit, quia videt exemplar . The signification of the future יכּתבוּ is regulated by ראוּ , and becomes, as relating to the synchronous past, scribebantur . The days יצּרוּ , which were already formed, are the subject. It is usually rendered: “the days which had first to be formed.” If יצּרוּ could be equivalent to ייצּרוּ , it would be to be preferred; but this rejection of the praeform. fut . is only allowed in the fut. Piel of the verbs Pe Jod , and that after a Waw convertens , e.g., ויּבּשׁ = וייבּשׁ , Nahum 1:4 (cf. Caspari on Obadiah 1:11).

(Note: But outside the Old Testament it also occurs in the Pual , though as a wrong use of the word; vide my Anekdota (1841), S. 372f.)

Accordingly, assuming the original character of the לא in a negative signification, it is to be rendered: The days which were (already) formed, and there was not one among them, i.e., when none among them had as yet become a reality. The suffix of כּלּם points to the succeeding ימים , to which יצּרוּ is appended as an attributive clause; ולא אחד בּהם is subordinated to this יצּרוּ : cum non or nondum (Job 22:16) unus inter eos = unus eorum (Exodus 14:28) esset. But the expression (instead of ועוד לא היה or טרם יהיה ) remains doubtful, and it becomes a question whether the Kerî ולו (vid., on Psalms 100:3), which stands side by side with the Chethîb ולא (which the lxx, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, the Targum, Syriac, Jerome, and Saadia follow), is not to be preferred. This ולו , referred to גלמי , gives the acceptable meaning: and for it (viz., its birth) one among them (these days), without our needing to make any change in the proposed exposition down to יצרו . We decide in favour of this, because this ולו אחד בהם does not, as ולא אחד בהם , make one feel to miss any היה , and because the ולי which begins Psalms 139:17 connects itself to it by way of continuation. The accentuation has failed to discern the reference of כלם to the following ימים , inasmuch as it places Olewejored against יכתבו . Hupfeld follows this accentuation, referring כלם back to גלמי as a coil of days of one's life; and Hitzig does the same, referring it to the embryos. But the precedence of the relative pronoun occurs in other instances also,

(Note: The Hebrew poet, says Gesenius ( Lehrgebäude , S. 739f.), sometimes uses the pronoun before the thing to which it referred has even been spoken of. This phenomenon belongs to the Hebrew style generally, vid., my Anekdota (1841), S. 382.)

and is devoid of all harshness, especially in connection with כּלּם , which directly signifies altogether (e.g., Isaiah 43:14).

It is the confession of the omniscience that is united with the omnipotence of God, which the poet here gives utterance to with reference to himself, just as Jahve says with reference to Jeremiah, Jeremiah 1:5. Among the days which were preformed in the idea of God (cf. on יצרו , Isaiah 22:11; Isaiah 37:26) there was also one, says the poet, for the embryonic beginning of my life. The divine knowledge embraces the beginning, development, and completion of all things ( Psychology , S. 37ff., tr. pp. 46ff.). The knowledge of the thoughts of God which are written in the book of creation and revelation is the poet's cherished possession, and to ponder over them is his favourite pursuit: they are precious to him, יקרוּ (after Psalms 36:8), not: difficult of comprehension ( schwerbegreiflich , Maurer, Olshausen), after Daniel 2:11, which would surely have been expressed by עמקוּ (Psalms 92:6), more readily: very weighty ( schwergewichtig , Hitzig), but better according to the prevailing Hebrew usage: highly valued ( schwergewerthet ), cara .

(Note: It should be noted that the radical idea of the verb, viz., being heavy (German schwer ), is retained in all these renderings. - Tr.)

“Their sums” are powerful, prodigious (Psalms 40:6), and cannot be brought to a summa summarum . If he desires to count them ( fut. hypothet. as in Psalms 91:7; Job 20:24), they prove themselves to be more than the sand with its grains, that is to say, innumerable. He falls asleep over the pondering upon them, wearied out; and when he wakes up, he is still with God, i.e., still ever absorbed in the contemplation of the Unsearchable One, which even the sleep of fatigue could not entirely interrupt. Ewald explains it somewhat differently: if I am lost in the stream of thoughts and images, and recover myself from this state of reverie, yet I am still ever with Thee, without coming to an end. But it could only perhaps be interpreted thus if it were העירותי or התעוררתּי . Hofmann's interpretation is altogether different: I will count them, the more numerous than the sand, when I awake and am continually with Thee, viz., in the other world, after the awaking from the sleep of death. This is at once impossible, because הקיצתי cannot here, according to its position, be a perf. hypotheticum . Also in connection with this interpretation עוד would be an inappropriate expression for “continually,” since the word only has the sense of the continual duration of an action or a state already existing; here of one that has not even been closed and broken off by sleep. He has not done; waking and dreaming and waking up, he is carried away by that endless, and yet also endlessly attractive, pursuit, the most fitting occupation of one who is awake, and the sweetest (cf. Jeremiah 31:26) of one who is asleep and dreaming.


Verses 19-21

And this God is by many not only not believed in and loved, but even hated and blasphemed! The poet now turns towards these enemies of God in profound vexation of spirit. The אם , which is conditional in Psalms 139:8, here is an optative o si , as in Psalms 81:9; Psalms 95:7. The expression תּקטל אלוהּ reminds one of the Book of Job, for, with the exception of our Psalm, this is the only book that uses the verb קטל , which is more Aramaic than Hebrew, and the divine name Eloah occurs more frequently in it than anywhere else. The transition from the optative to the imperative סוּרוּ is difficult; it would have been less so if the Waw copul . had been left out: cf. the easier expression in Psalms 6:9; Psalms 119:115. But we may not on this account seek to read יסוּרוּ , as Olshausen does. Everything here is remarkable; the whole Psalm has a characteristic form in respect to the language. מנּי is the ground-form of the overloaded ממּנּי , and is also like the Book of Job, Job 21:16, cf. מנהוּ Job 4:12, Psalms 68:24. The mode of writing ימרוּך (instead of which, however, the Babylonian texts had יאמרוּך ) is the same as in 2 Samuel 19:15, cf. in 2 Samuel 20:9 the same melting away of the Aleph into the preceding vowel in connection with אחז , in 2 Samuel 22:40 in connection with אזּר , and in Isaiah 13:20 with אהל . Construed with the accusative of the person, אמר here signifies to declare any one, profiteri , a meaning which, we confess, does not occur elsewhere. But למזמּה (cf. למרמה , Psalms 24:4; the Targum: who swear by Thy name for wantonness) and the parallel member of the verse, which as it runs is moulded after Exodus 20:7, show that it has not to be read ימרוּך (Quinta: παρεπικρανάν σε ). The form נשׁוּא , with Aleph otians , is also remarkable; it ought at least to have been written נשׂאוּ (cf. נרפּוּא , Ezekiel 47:8) instead of the customary נשׂאוּ ; yet the same mode of writing is found in the Niphal in Jeremiah 10:5, ינשׁוּא , it assumes a ground-form נשׂה (Psalms 32:1) = נשׂא , and is to be judged of according to אבוּא in Isaiah 28:12 [Ges. §23, 3, rem. 3]. Also one feels the absence of the object to נשׁוּא לשּׁוא . It is meant to be supplied according to the decalogue, Exodus 20:7, which certainly makes the alteration שׁמך (Böttcher, Olsh.) or זכרך (Hitzig on Isaiah 26:13), instead of עריך , natural. But the text as we now have it is also intelligible: the object to נשׂוא is derived from ימרוך , and the following עריך is an explanation of the subject intended in נשׂוא that is introduced subsequently. Psalms 89:52 proves the possibility of this structure of a clause. It is correctly rendered by Aquila ἀντίζηλοί σου , and Symmachus οἱ ἐναντίοι σου . ער , an enemy, prop. one who is zealous, a zealot (from עוּר , or rather עיר , = Arab. gâr , med . Je , ζηλοῦν , whence עיר , Arab. gayrat = קנאה ), is a word that is guaranteed by 1 Samuel 28:16; Daniel 4:16, and as being an Aramaism is appropriate to this Psalm. The form תּקומם for מתּקומם has cast away the preformative Mem (cf. שׁפתּים and משׁפּתים , מקּרה in Deuteronomy 23:11 for ממּקּרה ); the suffix is to be understood according to Psalms 17:7. Pasek stands between יהוה and אשׂנה in order that the two words may not be read together (cf. Job 27:13, and above Psalms 10:3). התקוטט as in the recent Psalms 119:158. The emphasis in Psalms 139:22 lies on לי ; the poet regards the adversaries of God as enemies of his own. תּכלית takes the place of the adjective: extremo ( odio ) odi eos . Such is the relation of the poet to the enemies of God, but without indulging any self-glorying.


Verse 23-24

He sees in them the danger which threatens himself, and prays God not to give him over to the judgment of self-delusion, but to lay bare the true state of his soul. The fact “Thou hast searched me,” which the beginning of the Psalm confesses, is here turned into a petitioning “search me.” Instead of רעים in Psalms 139:17, the poet here says שׂרעפּים , which signifies branches (Ezekiel 31:5) and branchings of the act of thinking (thoughts and cares, Psalms 94:19). The Resh is epenthetic, for the first form is שׂעפּים , Job 4:13; Job 20:2. The poet thus sets the very ground and life of his heart, with all its outward manifestations, in the light of the divine omniscience. And in Psalms 139:24 he prays that God would see whether any דּרך־עצב cleaves to him ( בּי as in 1 Samuel 25:24), by which is not meant “a way of idols” (Rosenmüller, Gesenius, and Maurer), after Isaiah 48:5, since an inclination towards, or even apostasy to, heathenism cannot be an unknown sin; nor to a man like the writer of this Psalm is heathenism any power of temptation. דוך בּצע (Grätz) might more readily be admissible, but דוך עצב is a more comprehensive notion, and one more in accordance with this closing petition. The poet gives this name to the way that leads to the pain, torture, viz., of the inward and outward punishments of sin; and, on the other hand, the way along which he wishes to be guided he calls דּרך עולם , the way of endless continuance (lxx, Vulgate, Luther), not the way of the former times, after Jeremiah 6:16 (Maurer, Olshausen), which thus by itself is ambiguous (as becomes evident from Job 22:15; Jeremiah 18:15), and also does not furnish any direct antithesis. The “everlasting way” is the way of God (Psalms 27:11), the way of the righteous, which stands fast for ever and shall not “perish” (Psalms 1:6).

 


Copyright Statement
The Keil & Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.

Bibliography Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 139:4". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/psalms-139.html. 1854-1889.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, November 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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