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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Psalms 139

 

 

Verses 1-24

CXXXIX. God is Everywhere: He Knows Everything—Oh that He would Destroy the Wicked.—This Ps. is among the most spiritual productions of the OT. It deals with the mystery of Divine providence, a theme frequently discussed after the Exile, when the national life had died out and each individual was brought face to face with the difficulties which surrounded him and with the thought of his ultimate fate. Other nations, of course, have engaged in similar speculation, but in very different tone and spirit. Here, as elsewhere, the Hebrew poet manifests intense belief in the personality of God, in His righteousness, in His care for the men He has made. He speaks in the first person singular, because he is giving expression to his own faith and in part to his own experience. Again, he uses no abstract terms such as omnipresence, omniscience, and the like: indeed in Biblical Heb. no such words are to be found. There is no indication of date, except the reason given above, for placing the Ps. after the Exile, but the strong Aramaic colouring of the vocabulary and the high probability that in Psalms 139:13-16 we have a reminiscence of Job 10:9-11, point to a late origin. Certainly the greater originality seems to be with the passage in Job.

Psalms 139:1-12. God's intimate knowledge of the Psalmist and His constant proximity to him. He is familiar with all his ways and observes his most ordinary movements and actions. He knows the thought which is still unformed and the word which is still unuttered. The Psalmist finds such knowledge inconceivable. Further, God is in heaven and no less truly in Sheol, the latter assertion marking a significant advance in religious ideas, for the old notion (Psalms 115:17) was that all memory of God ceased in Sheol. Were the poet to be borne on the wings of the morning (here personified, cf. Job 3:9*) and fly to the western ocean, God would still be with him. To God darkness and light are alike.

Psalms 139:4. Translate, "Before there is a word on my tongue, thou, O Yahweh, knowest it (the unuttered word) altogether," i.e. exactly.

Psalms 139:11 b. Follow mg.

Psalms 139:13-16. Man's wonderful creation.

Psalms 139:13. reins: here all the interior organs.

Psalms 139:15. Read, "as in the lowest parts of the earth."

Psalms 139:16 is corrupt and proposed emendations are very doubtful. Read perhaps, "Thine eyes saw my days. They were all being written in thy book; they were formed while as yet there was none of them for me." The days of the Psalmist's life were preordained by God and visible to Him, long before they had actual existence. For the Book of Life, see Psalms 56:8; Psalms 69:28.

Psalms 139:17 f. Yahweh's inscrutable providence. The thoughtful care which God takes of the Psalmist is a heavy burden. The common interpretation, "How precious," is unsuitable to the context, and the rendering just given, though Aramaic and not Heb., is quite permissible in a Ps. like this, which is partly Aramaic in its vocabulary. Moreover God's care extends to all men, or at least to all Israelites. Great then is the sum (lit. "sums") of them, i.e. the aggregate of God's care for countless souls. The Psalmist is lost in contemplation of this mystery, and next morning when he wakes he is possessed by the same thought.

Psalms 139:19-24. "Oh that God would but destroy the wicked!" The Psalmist has no theory on the existence of evil. His solution is a practical one. He will ever hate the wicked utterly. He begs Yahweh to see if there is anything in him which is sinful and must therefore result in affliction, and prays God to lead him in the "way everlasting." It is impossible to say whether the poet was thinking of a life beyond death or only of a happy life prolonged to old age.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Psalms 139:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/psalms-139.html. 1919.

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Saturday, December 7th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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