Psalm 119
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This great “Psalm of the Law” is based upon the prophetic (Ezra 9:11) presentation of the Law in the Book of Deuteronomy, with the spirit and language of which its author’s mind was saturated. It represents the religious ideas of Deuteronomy developed in the communion of a devout soul with God. It is the fruit of that diligent study of the Law which is enjoined in Deuteronomy 6:1-9, a beginning of the fulfilment of the promise of an inward and spiritual knowledge of it which is proclaimed by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:33 ff.). The Psalmist is one whose earnest desire and stedfast purpose it is to make God’s law the governing principle of his conduct, to surrender all self-willed thoughts and aims, to subordinate his whole life to the supremely perfect Will of God, with unquestioning faith in His all-embracing Providence and unfailing love.

The ‘Law of God,’ which the Psalmist describes in its manifold aspects as His law, word, promise, commandments, statutes, judgements, precepts, testimonies, ways, is not the law in the narrower sense of the Mosaic legislation or the Pentateuch. The Hebrew word tôrâh has a wider range of meaning, and here, as in Psalms 1, 19, it must be understood to mean all Divine revelation as the guide of life. This it is which kindles the Psalmist’s enthusiasm and demands his allegiance. It is no rigid code of commands and prohibitions, but a body of teaching, the full meaning of which can only be realised gradually and by the help of Divine instruction. It has been said that the Psalmist’s devotion to the Law contains the germ of Pharisaic legalism, but it may be questioned whether the observation is just. Nowhere does the Psalmist allow law to interfere between him and God; never is a formal observance of external rules substituted for the inward devotion of the heart. If sometimes his professions of obedience seem to savour of self-righteousness, his prayers for grace fully recognise that strength to obey must come from God. The Psalm is an acknowledgement of the blessing of a revelation, of the strength which the law gives to Israel in the midst of surrounding heathenism, and to the faithful Israelite in the presence of a prevailing laxity of faith and morals. In an age when the voice of prophecy was rarely heard, or perhaps was altogether silent, it begins to draw strength from meditation on the revelation made to past generations. It points no doubt towards the age of the Scribes, but it represents the best spirit of that age[78]. It is remarkable that a Psalm, emanating from the period in which the ritual law was codified and the Temple became the centre of Israel’s religion, should contain no reference whatever to ceremonial or sacrifice. Doubtless the Psalmist would have included the ceremonial law as a part of God’s commandments, but evidently he does not regard it as the principal part of them. The whole Psalm is animated by a profound inwardness and spirituality, as far removed as possible from the superstitious literalism of a later age. It shews no tendency to substitute mechanical observance of rules for the living application of principles. Such obedience, if it falls short of the full liberty of the Gospel, is at least a step towards it.

[78] Cp. Oehler’s O.T. Theology, §§ 84, 201.

The close personal relation of the Psalmist to God is one of the most striking features of the Psalms in general, and in few Psalms is it more marked than in this. In every verse but one (115) or at most two (but on 128 see note) after the first three introductory verses God is addressed; in all but some fourteen verses the Psalmist addresses God in the first person, or, which is the same thing, as His servant.

The Psalmist has arranged his meditations in an elaborate alphabetical form, adopted partly perhaps as an aid to memory. The Psalm consists of 22 stanzas, according to the number of the letters in the Hebrew alphabet. Each of the 8 verses in a stanza begins with the same letter, and the letters are taken in their regular order. The arrangement of Lamentations 3 presents the nearest parallel, but there the stanzas consist of three verses only. (For other alphabetical Psalms see Introd. p. lxiv.) This artificiality of structure seems to have hindered many commentators from appreciating the variety of the contents of the Psalm, and many have denied that any real connexion or progress of thought is to be found in it. In a sense this may be true: the verses are not so much linked together by logical connexion as united by their direction to a common centre, but each stanza has, as a rule, some leading thought, which gives it a distinctive character. Those who by long devotional use have become intimately familiar with the Psalm have found a significant variety in the apparent monotony of its language. For them it is ‘the Psalm of the Saints’; ‘the Alphabet of Divine Love’; ‘the Christian’s golden ABC of the praise, love, power and use of the Word of God.’ St Augustine deferred the exposition of it until he had finished the rest of the Psalter, and finally approached it with reluctance and diffidence:—“non tam propter eius notissimam longitudinem quam propter eius profunditatem paucis cognoscibilem … quanto enim videtur apertior, tanto mihi profundior videri solet” (Prooemium in Psalms 118). The cxix th Psalm, writes Dr Liddon, represents in the highest degree “the paradox of seeming simplicity overlying fathomless depth. It conveys at first an impression of tautology … it seems to reiterate with little attempt at variety the same aspirations, assurances, prayers, resolutions”; but a close and sympathetic study shews it to be “infinitely varied in its expressions, yet incessantly one in its direction; its variations are so delicate as to be almost imperceptible, its unity so emphatic as to be inexorably stamped upon its every line” (The Priest in his Inner Life, p. 46).

“The 119th Psalm,” says Mr Ruskin, quoted by Archbp. Alexander, Witness of the Psalms, p. 302, “has become of all the most precious to me in its overflowing and glorious passion of love for the law of God.”

Who the author of the Psalm was it is idle to speculate, but we may gather from it some idea of the circumstances among which he lived. He was sorely tried, but in his trials he recognised God’s loving discipline for his good (Psalm 119:50; Psalm 119:67; Psalm 119:71; Psalm 119:75; Psalm 119:107; Psalm 119:153). He had to suffer contempt (22, 39, 42) and even ill-treatment (121, 134) for his adherence to the law. The authorities of the community despised and persecuted him (23, 161); men of position and power, whom he designates as ‘the proud’ or ‘the wicked,’ mocked him, calumniated him, endeavoured to oppress and injure him (51, 61, 69, 78, 84, 85, 86, 95, 122, 150, 157). He was even in danger of his life (87, 109). His persecutors were not heathen, but faithless Israelites, for he describes them as forsaking God’s law (53), wandering from His commandments (21), forgetting His words (139). They were selfish, self-satisfied men of the world, incapable of appreciating true religion (70). Their indifference to the law sometimes aroused his burning indignation (53); sometimes excited his profound sorrow (136). He was confronted by laxity if not actual apostasy (113, 158, 126): evil example might have tempted him to disown his faith and cast in his lot with evil-doers (29, 37, 115), but he has successfully resisted the temptation, for he knows God’s estimate of their character (118, 119), and their certain destiny (155). Under these circumstances, however, it is no easy task for him to maintain his constancy. Repeatedly and earnestly he prays for fuller knowledge of the law and for strength to keep it, for relief from persecution, for protection and preservation.

We can thus form a tolerable idea of the circumstances of the Psalmist, or of the class which he represents, for it is probable that he speaks on behalf of others as well as himself, and interweaves their experiences with his own. This representative character of the Psalm explains some phrases which seem to go beyond individual experience, though it is clear on the whole that an individual and not the community is the speaker. At what time he lived it is impossible to say precisely. That it was in the post-exilic period is certain from the tone and language of the Psalm, but in what part of it is doubtful. The beginning at any rate of the conditions described above is to be found in the evils which Ezra and Nehemiah endeavoured to remedy, and against which Malachi protested. (See e.g. Nehemiah 5, 6, 13; Malachi 3:13-15.) There are not a few points of contact in thought and language between their writings and the Psalm. It may have been written about the middle of the fifth century b.c., possibly not till considerably later, but certainly not so late as the Maccabaean age. There are no traces of the struggles of the time when the possession of a copy of the law and the observance of the characteristic rites of Judaism were punishable with death.

Delitzsch infers from Psalm 119:9 ff., Psalm 119:99-100; Psalm 119:141, that the Psalmist was a young man; Ewald from Psalm 119:84-87 that he was advanced in years. Neither inference seems to be justified. More probably he was a man of mature years, who had learned much by experience, but felt that he had still much more to learn.

Hitzig conjectures that he was a prisoner who beguiled the tedium of his imprisonment by the composition of the Psalm, and Delitzsch is inclined to adopt the suggestion. But there is no sufficient ground for such a hypothesis.

It is not likely that the Psalm was deliberately composed “as a vade mecum for Israelite young men.” Doubtless it was well adapted for a compendium of instruction, but it attests itself to be the utterance of heartfelt devotion. Nor again is it a ‘national’ Psalm, in the sense that the Psalmist merges his own personality in that of the community and speaks in its name. Doubtless he speaks for others as well as himself; it is of the essence of inspired poetry to be representative and to possess a catholicity of thought; and often he appropriates the national experience, for to the Israelite membership in the covenant nation was a profound reality; but the Psalm breathes throughout the spirit of the most intense personal conviction, of the most intimate but deeply reverent communion with God.

It will be most convenient to consider once for all the various words for ‘the Law’ which recur so frequently in this Psalm[79], and to note some of its most characteristic phrases.

[79] According to the Massoretic note on Psalm 119:122 one of the ten expressions,—pointing to the ‘ten words’ of the Decalogue,—‘saying,’ ‘word,’ ‘testimony,’ ‘way,’ ‘judgement,’ ‘precept,’ ‘commandment,’ ‘law,’ ‘statute,’ ‘faithfulness’ (according to another reading ‘righteousness’) occurs in every verse except Psalm 119:122 (to which Psalm 119:132 should be added). ‘Faithfulness’ however is an attribute of the law, not a synonym for it: and the word ‘judgements’ does not always mean ‘ordinances.’

ALEPH. Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD.
1. Tôrâh, ‘law,’ LXX νόμος, occurs 25 times. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:8 &c. It has however a much wider range of meaning than ‘law.’ It denotes (a) direction or instruction, whether human (Proverbs 1:8) or Divine: (b) a body of teaching: (c) more definitely, a law, or (d) a code of laws, whether the Deuteronomic code or the Levitical legislation, ‘the law of Moses’: and so finally (e) the Pentateuch. Here, as in Psalms 1, 19, it must be taken in its widest sense, as synonymous with the ‘word’ of Jehovah (Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 2:3), to include all Divine revelation as the guide of life, prophetic exhortation as well as priestly direction, the sum of an Israelite’s duty. (Cp. the use of ‘the law’ to denote the whole O.T. in John 10:34.)

1. Blessed &c.] Happy the perfect (or upright) in way, integri vitae, those whose course of life is directed and governed by single-hearted devotion to Jehovah, and integrity in dealing with their fellow men. Cp. Psalm 1:1; Psalm 15:2 note; Psalm 101:2; Psalm 101:6.

who walk &c.] Integrity of life is defined as a walking in Jehovah’s law. This is the path (Psalm 119:33) which man must follow if he would avoid sin. Cp. Exodus 16:4; Luke 1:6. For the meaning of ‘law’ see above, p. 703.

1–8. Aleph. Loyal obedience to Jehovah’s law is the source of man’s truest happiness, and therefore the Psalmist prays that it may be the fixed rule of his life, and that he may learn to understand it better.

Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, and that seek him with the whole heart.
2. Dâbâr, ‘word,’ LXX λόγος (20 times), in plur. ‘words’ (3 times), is the most general term for God’s communication of His Will to man, especially through prophets. It will be remembered that the “Ten Commandments” are literally the “Ten Words” (Deuteronomy 4:13). Cp. Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 4:10; &c.

2. testimonies] See above, p. 704.

and that seek him &c.] Omit and. Cp. Psalm 119:10; Deuteronomy 4:29. The word includes not only approaching God in prayer and worship, but studying to understand His Will expressed in His law.

with the whole heart] See above, p. 705.

They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
3. ’Imrâh, ‘saying,’ or collectively ‘sayings,’ LXX λόγιον (19 times), is a poetical synonym for dâbâr, rare in prose, but found in Isaiah 5:24 in parallelism with tôrâh. Cp. Deuteronomy 33:9.

3. This verse is to be connected with the preceding one:

Yea, have wrought no unrighteousness,

Have walked in his ways.

Thou hast commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
4. Mitsvâh, ‘commandment,’ LXX ἐντολή (21 times in plural, once in singular collectively), denotes a definite command imposed by authority. It is often coupled with the two following words in Deut. (e.g. Psalm 6:1).

4. Thou hast commanded thy precepts,

That (men) should observe them diligently.

This verse calls attention to the Author of the law (Thou is emphatic), and to the purpose of its enactment. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:2. On ‘precepts’ see above, p. 704.

O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!
5. Chuqqîm, 21 times, once chuqqôth, ‘statutes,’ LXX δικαιώματα, lit. something engraved or inscribed, so what is prescribed or enacted. Frequently in Deut. (Psalm 4:1 &c.).

5. Oh that my ways were established

To observe thy statutes! (R.V.)

The thought of God’s Will expressed in Psalm 119:4 naturally evokes a prayer that in his whole life and conduct he may fulfil God’s Will, not fitfully and uncertainly, but constantly and consistently. For established cp. Proverbs 4:26.

Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
6. Mishpâṭîm, ‘judgements,’ or ‘ordinances,’ LXX κρίματα (19 times in plur., 4 times in sing.), has some variety of meaning. The idea in the word is “that of a judicial decision, made authoritatively once, and constituting a rule, a precedent, applicable to other similar cases in the future” (Driver on Deuteronomy 4:1); but in several passages of the Psalm it means the judicial acts of Jehovah, executing judgement on the wicked, and revealing or vindicating His law. Common in Deut. (Psalm 4:1 &c.).

6. Then points back to Psalm 119:5, and is further explained in 6 b: then … namely, when I &c. No real disgrace or disappointment can befall him whose single aim is the observance of God’s law in all its parts.

I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
7. Piqqudîm, δικαιώματα (21 times), ‘precepts,’ ‘injunctions,’ LXX ἐντολαί, a poetical word found only in the Psalter (Psalm 19:8; Psalm 103:18; Psalm 111:7).

7. I will give thanks unto thee … when I learn &c. (R.V.)] The Psalmist knows that he has not yet attained to a complete knowledge of God’s revealed Will; but he gives thanks for every advance. The will to obey (Psalm 119:5-6) is the condition of progress (cp. John 7:17); and throughout the Psalm he prays repeatedly for teaching and direction.

I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly.
8. ‘Edâh or ‘çdûth (sing. once, plur. 22 times), ‘testimony,’ LXX μαρτύρια. The idea of the word is “that of an attestation, or formal affirmation; hence, as referred to God, a solemn declaration of His Will on points (especially) of moral or religious duty, or a protest against human propensity to deviate from it.…” The word came to be used “as a general designation of moral and religious ordinances, conceived as a Divinely instituted standard of conduct.” The term ‘testimony’ in the singular is applied to the Decalogue “as a concise and forcible statement of God’s will and human duty” (Driver on Deuteronomy 4:45). Cf. Deuteronomy 4:45; Deuteronomy 6:17; Deuteronomy 6:20 : in the sing. çdûth is frequent in Ex., Lev., Num.

8. I will keep] R.V. I will observe, as in Psalm 119:4-5.

thy statutes] Ceremonies in P.B.V. is a curiously misleading rendering, taken from Münster’s caerimonias tuas. Coverdale’s version of 1535 has statutes.

O forsake me not utterly] As Israel in the Exile had been for a time forsaken by Jehovah as the punishment of its sin (Isaiah 49:14; Isaiah 54:7; cp. Deuteronomy 31:17).

BETH. Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
9. Derek, ‘way,’ LXX ὁδός, denotes the course of conduct marked out by God’s law. Cp. Deuteronomy 5:33; Deuteronomy 9:12, &c.

9. a young man] Who most needs help to keep himself pure from sin (Psalm 25:7). Cp. Psalm 34:11 ff.; and the constant address of the teacher to his disciple in the Book of Proverbs, ‘My son.’

by taking heed &c.] The answer to the question of the previous line. The object of the verb is not expressed, and the exact meaning is doubtful. It may be ‘by taking heed to himself according to the rule of Thy word’; cp. P.B.V., ‘even by ruling himself after thy word’: or more probably, ‘by observing thy statutes (Psalm 119:4; Psalm 119:6) according to thy commandment.’ The LXX and Jerome seem to represent a different reading, ‘by observing thy words.’

9–16. Beth. Love for God’s law the safeguard and the joy of life.

With my whole heart have I sought thee: O let me not wander from thy commandments.
10. ’Orach, ‘path,’ a poetical synonym for derek; not in Deut., but common in Prov.

The attributes applied to the Law should also be studied. Like its Author (Psalm 119:137, cp. Deuteronomy 32:4) it is perfectly righteous. The note of righteousness is constantly repeated; in all its aspects the Law answers to that perfect standard which God is to Himself for all His works and words. Its faithfulness and truth correspond to the faithfulness and truth of His nature; it is sharply contrasted with all that is false in belief and conduct.

Other constantly recurring expressions should also be noted. The Psalmist’s repeated protestations that he has ‘observed’ or ‘kept’ the law, his resolutions to do so, and his prayers for strength to fulfil them, answer to the repeated injunctions of Deut. (Psalm 4:2 &c.). ‘With a (my) whole heart,’ with entire devotion of thought and will, is a phrase characteristic alike of this Psalm and of the Book of Deut.[80] (Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 6:5 &c.) where it is often coupled with ‘the whole soul,’ the organ of feeling and emotion. In Deut. the Israelites are repeatedly exhorted to learn the statutes and judgements (Deuteronomy 5:1) and to teach them to their children (Deuteronomy 4:10); and repeatedly the Psalmist prays that he may be taught. The Psalmist’s reiterated prayers for ‘understanding’ recall the language of Deuteronomy 4:6. ‘Life’ is held out in Deut. (Deuteronomy 4:1 &c.) as the reward of obedience; and for ‘life’ the Psalmist continually pleads—‘quicken thou me’—‘let me live’ (Psa 25, 37, 40, 88, 107, 149, 154, 156, 159, 116, 144). The source of ‘life’ he finds in the law and promises of God (50, 93): and by ‘life’ he means not simply preservation from death, but liberation from all, whether within or without, that crushes and paralyses life, and hinders its proper use and enjoyment; for ‘life’ includes the ideas of light and joy and prosperity. It finds its fullest realisation in communion with God. The original promise of life to the nation is coupled with the promise of the possession of the land, but the latter now drops out of sight, and the conception of ‘life’ is approximating towards the higher meaning of the word in the N.T. Cp. Deuteronomy 8:3. Very noteworthy is the Psalmist’s enthusiastic love for the Law. The love which the Israelite was bidden to cherish for Jehovah (Deuteronomy 6:5 &c.) is kindled by the manifold revelation of His Will in the Law. “O how I love thy law: it is my meditation all the day” (97). It is no irksome restraint of his liberty, but his delight, his joy, his treasure, his comfort, the subject of his meditations by day and by night, the source of trust and hope amid all the perplexities and troubles of life. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

[80] Deut. prefers the form lçbâb, the Psalm, except in Psalm 119:7, uses lçb.

10. Cp. Psalm 119:2 b.

O let me not wander &c.] Let me not err through ignorance or inadvertence (Psalm 119:67; Psalm 19:12). My intention is good, but my knowledge is imperfect and my strength is small. “The self-mistrust of the second clause is a proof of the reality of the first” (Aglen).

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
11. have I hid] Better as R.V. have I laid up, stored up and treasured in my heart as a safeguard against sin. Cp. Job 23:12; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 7:1; Jeremiah 31:33.

Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
12. The confession of Jehovah’s adorableness is a fitting preface to the prayer for further instruction. Cp. Psalm 119:7.

With my lips have I declared all the judgments of thy mouth.
13. have I declared] Or, recounted. The faithful Israelite was not merely to treasure in his mind God’s declarations of His Will, but to “talk of them” (Deuteronomy 6:7), to produce his treasure for the good of others (Matthew 12:35).

I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.
14. Obedience to the laws by which God attests His Will is the true wealth which brings joy to life. Cp. the teaching of Proverbs 2:4; Proverbs 3:13 ff; Proverbs 8:10-11; Proverbs 8:18-19; Proverbs 16:16.

I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.
15. thy ways] Or, paths (Jer. semitas), a different word from that in Psalm 119:1; Psalm 119:3; Psalm 119:5. It is for the most part a poetical word, and is used in Psalm 119:9; Psalm 119:101; Psalm 119:104; Psalm 119:128.

I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
16. Cp. Psalm 119:47; Psalm 119:70.

GIMEL. Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live, and keep thy word.
17. Deal bountifully] Cp. Psalm 13:6; Psalm 116:7; Psalm 142:7.

and keep thy word] Better as R.V. So will I observe thy word. “The Psalmist desires continued life mainly because it affords the opportunity of continued obedience” (Maclaren). Cp. Psalm 118:17.

17–24. Gimel. The knowledge and observance of God’s law the aim of life, a strength and comfort in time of contempt and persecution.

Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.
18. Open] Lit. uncover. Natural sight is unable to discern the mysteries (cp. Psalm 119:27) of Divine revelation; hence this prayer for the removal of the veil from his eyes. Cp. 2 Kings 6:17 (a different word); Ephesians 1:17-18.

I am a stranger in the earth: hide not thy commandments from me.
19. a stranger] A sojourner (ger), or alien residing under protection in a country not his own, needs to be instructed in the law of the land that he may not offend against it. Such a ‘sojourner’ is the Psalmist upon earth, and therefore he prays God, the Lord of the earth, to impart to him a full knowledge of his obligations. The further thought may be implied that as his residence is only temporary, he would fain make the best use of life which may be short. Cp. Psalm 39:12, note.

My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.
20. A plea for an answer to the prayer of Psalm 119:19. His soul breaks, lit. is crushed, overwhelmed and consumed with longing for the fuller knowledge of God’s judgements, i.e. the authoritative declaration of His Will. See above, p. 704.

Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.
21. The A.V. follows the Massoretic text; but the more obvious construction of the verse is that of the LXX, Syr., and Jer., followed by P.B.V. and R.V. marg. Thou rebukest the proud: cursed are they which do wander &c. God’s rebuke is that sentence of condemnation which carries its own execution with it (Psalm 9:5). The perfect tense (hast rebuked) states a general truth and is best translated by the present, thou rebukest. The proud (Psalm 119:51; Psalm 119:69; Psalm 119:78; Psalm 119:85; Psalm 119:122; cf. Malachi 3:15; Malachi 4:1) are those who sin wilfully and presumptuously (Psalm 19:13; Deuteronomy 17:12-13), careless or apostate Israelites. See above, p. 702.

Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.
22. Remove] R.V. take away, lit. strip off, shame being regarded as a covering; but probably gôl, ‘roll away,’ should be read instead of gal, shame being regarded as a burden. This verse is to be connected with Psalm 119:21. ‘Thou rebukest the proud; rebuke them now, and relieve me of the contempt which they heap upon me for my observance of Thy law.’

Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.
23. A further proof of his fidelity. Though those in authority sit in council and devise plans for his ruin, he continues to meditate on Jehovah’s statutes. Cp. Daniel 6:4 ff. It has been maintained that foreign princes must be meant, and consequently that the Psalmist must be speaking in the name of the nation, and not as an individual. But princes was the title commonly given to the Israelite nobles in post-exilic times, and the Psalmist was evidently persecuted by wealthy and powerful countrymen. Cp. Psalm 119:161, and see above, p. 702.

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellers.
24. When he is scorned by men, he can still find delight in God’s law; though his enemies take counsel against him, he has counsellors to direct him in God’s statutes. The LXX seems to have read, and thy judgements are my counsellors, a reading which improves the structure of the verse.

DALETH. My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.
25. The Psalmist is in deep distress. He lies prostrate, crushed and unable to rise (Psalm 44:25; Psalm 7:5; Psalm 22:15); but he can pray that God will revive him, and give him fresh strength and joy in life according to His promise. On the prayer quicken or revive me see above, p. 705. Cp. Psalm 71:20; Psalm 80:18; Psalm 85:6; Psalm 138:7; Psalm 143:11.

according to thy word] For life is repeatedly promised as the reward of obedience to the law of God. See Deuteronomy 8:3; Deuteronomy 30:6; Deuteronomy 30:15; Deuteronomy 30:19-20; Deuteronomy 32:47.

25–32. Daleth. In the midst of humiliation and trial the Psalmist protests the sincerity of his purpose, and prays for deepened knowledge to keep him true and steadfast.

I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes.
26. I have recounted my ways, laid before Thee in detail all the concerns of my life, and thou hast answered me. Answered prayer is a proof of God’s good will, and therefore he prays for yet further instruction, teach me thy statutes.

Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.
27. The prayer of 26 b is further developed. This prayer for deeper insight recurs in Psalm 119:34; Psalm 119:73; Psalm 119:125; Psalm 119:144; Psalm 119:169.

so shall I talk of thy wondrous works] Rather, that I may meditate (as in Psalm 119:15; Psalm 119:23) on thy wonders, the mysteries of God’s Will revealed in His law (Psalm 119:18).

My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.
28. When my soul dissolves in tears (Job 16:20) for grief, strengthen me according to Thy promise.

Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.
29, 30. The way of falsehood (cp. 104, 128), all conduct that is not governed by God’s truth, is contrasted with the way of faithfulness, of loyalty to Him. Though he has made the great choice, and set before himself (Psalm 16:8) the declarations of God’s Will as the rule of his life, he prays that God will keep him from disloyalty, and that for this end He will graciously impart to him fresh instruction in His law.

I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.
I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame.
31. The protestation of a good conscience is continued. I cleave unto thy testimonies (cp. Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 11:22; Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 30:20); put me not to shame; let me not be disappointed of the blessings promised to faithful obedience.

I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.
32. When his heart is set free from the cramping constraint of trouble and anxiety, the Psalmist will use his liberty for more energetic service. Cp. Psalm 25:17 note; Isaiah 60:5. Another explanation makes the second clause the reason for the first, I will run … for thou dost enlarge &c.: I will serve Thee with alacrity, for when I do so, Thou dost expand my heart with a sense of joy and freedom.

HE. Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
33. Teach me] Or, instruct me in …; the verb from which tôrâh, ‘instruction,’ ‘law,’ is derived. Cp. Psalm 27:11; Psalm 86:11.

and I shall keep it] Or, that I may keep it; and similarly in Psalm 119:34, that I may keep thy law, yea observe it &c.

unto the end] The word ‘çqeb is generally rendered thus, here and in Psalm 119:112, but it nowhere else has this sense. In Psalm 19:11; Proverbs 22:4, it means reward; and so Baethgen would explain it here; I will keep it as reward. “In Psalm 19:11 a reward is expected for keeping the law: in Psalms 119 the life which is pleasing to God is itself regarded as reward.”

33–40. . A series of prayers for instruction guidance and strength.

Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
36. covetousness] Or, unjust gain. With this and the following verse cp. Isaiah 33:15.

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.
37. vanity includes all that is false, unreal, worthless. Cp. 1 John 2:15-17.

in thy way] So the LXX. The Heb. text as pointed reads in thy ways. He prays to God the author of life for vigour to resist temptation and walk in His ways.

“’Tis life, whereof our nerves are scant,

Oh life, not death, for which we pant,

More life, and fuller, that I want.”

Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear.
38. who is devoted to thy fear] This rendering is retained in R.V. marg., but the order of the words is in favour of rendering

Confirm unto thy servant thy promise

Which belongeth to the fear of thee,

or, Which maketh for the fear of thee. Perform for me the promises made to those who fear Thee: or, which aim at promoting and encouraging reverence for Thee. Cp. Psalm 130:4.

Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.
39. my reproach] Here, as in Psalm 119:22-23; Psalm 119:42, the scorn which he has to bear for his loyalty to God’s law.

for thy judgments are good] And therefore I ought not to suffer for observing them. For judgments see Psalm 119:13; Psalm 119:20; Psalm 119:30.

Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.
40. His will is good; but he needs fresh strength, and for this he prays on the ground of God’s righteousness, that attribute in virtue of which He must needs be true to His covenant-promises. Cp. Psalm 5:8, note.

VAU. Let thy mercies come also unto me, O LORD, even thy salvation, according to thy word.
41. thy mercies] Or, thy lovingkindnesses, manifested in deliverance, according to Thy promise.

41–48. Vâv. Prayers for grace and courage to witness a good confession.

So shall I have wherewith to answer him that reproacheth me: for I trust in thy word.
42. So shall I have an answer for him that reproacheth me (R.V.)] Personal experience of God’s manifold lovingkindness manifested in his deliverance will enable him to return a conclusive answer to those who taunt him with the uselessness of serving God. P.B.V. follows some of the Ancient Versions in reading the plural, my blasphemers.

And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth; for I have hoped in thy judgments.
43. This verse is to be taken in connexion with Psalm 119:41-42. ‘And so let me not be deprived of power to bear witness to the truth before my persecutors, as I should be if I had no practical experience of Thy goodness, for I have waited with hope for Thy judgements’; here as usually, not judicial acts, but principles of right, which he expects to see realised in life.

So shall I keep thy law continually for ever and ever.
44. So shall I observe thy law] This is his desire and purpose, if God will grant him grace.

continually for ever and ever] Unceasingly to the end of his life. Or does he merge his own personality in that of the nation, and look forward to the service of the generations to come?

And I will walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts.
45. And I will walk at liberty] Lit. in a broad place, for God’s commandment is “exceeding broad”; its observance is no restraint but the truest freedom. Or the meaning may be, Let me walk at liberty, free from the constraint of anxiety and persecution. Cp. Psalm 119:32; Psalm 118:5.

I seek] Or, I have studied, given diligent heed to.

I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.
46. before kings] Like Daniel and his companions, or Nehemiah, or the martyrs of the Maccabaean period, he is ready, if need be, to confess his faith boldly before the highest human authorities. Cp. Matthew 10:18; Acts 26:1-2.

And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.
47. Cp. Psalm 119:16; Psalm 119:70.

which I love] Cp. vv. [48], 97, 113, 119, 127, 140, 159, 163; and see above, p. 705.

My hands also will I lift up unto thy commandments, which I have loved; and I will meditate in thy statutes.
48. And I will lift up my hands unto thy commandments] The attitude of prayer, significant of an uplifted heart (Psalm 28:2), and here of reverence and devotion.

which I have loved] The clause overweights the verse, and has probably been accidentally repeated from Psalm 119:47.

ZAIN. Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.
49. upon which] R.V. marg. wherein, a doubtful construction. Better as R.V. because. God’s word of promise has given him hope, and he pleads that God will not forget it. As a faithful servant he ventures to claim a corresponding faithfulness from his Lord.

49–56. Zayin. In the midst of manifold trials God’s law has brought hope, consolation, life, joy.

This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.
50. This] i.e. Thy word, if the rendering for is retained in the next line. But it is better to render, This is my comfort … that thy word &c. Past experience of the life-giving sustaining power of God’s promise is his comfort in affliction.

The proud have had me greatly in derision: yet have I not declined from thy law.
51. have had me greatly in derision] Lit. have scorned me exceedingly. The ‘proud’ men of whom the Psalmist speaks belonged to the class of ‘scorners,’ the freethinkers who make what is good and holy the object of their ridicule. Cp. Proverbs 21:24; and note on Psalm 1:1. Though they ridicule him, he does not swerve from his adherence to God’s law.

I remembered thy judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself.
52. I have remembered thy judgments which have been from ancient times (LXX ἀπʼ αἰῶνος, cp. Luke 1:70), either (as generally in the Psalm) the Divine ordinances or principles of right revealed from ancient times, which are true and sure in spite of all the scoffers’ ridicule: or perhaps here, the judicial acts by which those ordinances have been maintained and vindicated in the course of history, and which will in due time descend upon the scoffers of the present.

Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
53. Horror &c.] Hot indignation seizes me. It was not unmingled with sorrow, Psalm 119:136.

that forsake thy law] Careless or apostate Israelites are clearly meant.

Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.
54. God’s statutes form the theme of his songs; they calm his mind and refresh his spirit in this transitory life of trial (Genesis 47:9; 1 Chronicles 29:15), as songs beguile the night (Job 35:10), or cheer the traveller on his journey.

pilgrimage] Lit. sojoumings. Cp.v. 19.

I have remembered thy name, O LORD, in the night, and have kept thy law.
55. The constant recollection of the Lawgiver and all that He has revealed Himself to be, is the most powerful motive to observance of His laws.

in the night] Cp. Psalm 119:62; Psalm 1:2.

This I had, because I kept thy precepts.
56. Either, This I have had, all this comfort and steadfastness and joy in the midst of the trials and sorrows of life have been mine, because I have kept thy precepts: or, This I have had, that I have kept thy precepts;—whatever advantages others may have had which I have not enjoyed, this supreme privilege has been mine, the keeping of Thy precepts. If this is the meaning, it strikes the keynote of the next stanza.

CHETH. Thou art my portion, O LORD: I have said that I would keep thy words.
57. Thou art my portion, O Lord] So some MSS of the LXX (AT); but the Heb. text must be rendered, Jehovah is my portion: I have purposed to observe thy words: or, Jehovah is my portion, have I said: that I may observe thy words: or, more simply, with cod. א of the LXX, and the Vulg., Jehovah my portion, I have purposed &c. Cp. Psalm 16:5; Psalm 73:26; Psalm 142:5.

57–64. Chçth. The Psalmist’s devotion to Jehovah and His law.

I intreated thy favour with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word.
58. be merciful] Be gracious, as in Psalm 4:1, and often. Cp. Psalm 119:29; Psalm 119:132.

I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.
59, 60. The diligent consideration of his conduct has ever led him back to order the course of his life in accordance with those laws which attest the Will of God and protest against man’s wilfulness, and that without hesitation or procrastination.

I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.
The bands of the wicked have robbed me: but I have not forgotten thy law.
61. The cords of the wicked have entangled me] A metaphor from the snare or noose of the hunter. Cp. Psalm 119:110; Psalm 18:5. Though the wicked lay snares for him, he will not cast in his lot with those who forget God. P.B.V. and A.V. follow some Jewish authorities, and Luther.

At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.
62. Far from forgetting the law, he will interrupt his sleep with thanksgivings for its righteous ordinances (Psalm 119:7).

I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.
The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.
64. Cp. Psalm 33:5; Psalm 145:9. Jehovah’s universal lovingkindness makes the Psalmist long to know more of His Will.

TETH. Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.
65. according unto thy word] i.e. thy promise. Cp. Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 10:13; Deuteronomy 30:9; Deuteronomy 30:15.

65–72. Tçth. Jehovah’s goodness toward His servant manifested in all His dealings, even in the discipline of affliction.

Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
66. good judgment] Lit. goodness of taste, the power to distinguish promptly and surely between right and wrong.

for I have believed in thy commandments] Prayer for further instruction is grounded on past loyalty to the known Will of God.

Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
67. I went astray] I did err; the word used in Leviticus 5:18; Numbers 15:28. The verse is equally applicable to Israel as a nation, taught by the discipline of exile, or to the Psalmist as an individual. Cp. Psalm 119:71; Psalm 119:75; Psalm 118:18; Job 5:17.

Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
68. God is good in nature and in action, kind and beneficent. ‘Bonus es tu, beneficus’ (Jer.). Cp. Deuteronomy 8:16. To such a loving God he can appeal with confidence to teach him (Matthew 7:11).

The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
69. The proud have forged a lie against me] Lit. have plastered falsehood over me, “making his true character unrecognisable” (Del.), or perhaps, questioning the sincerity and disinterestedness of his service; but his answer to their calumny is a more resolute determination to obey: as for me, with my whole heart will I keep thy precepts.

Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
70. Gross is their heart as fat (lit. the fat of the midriff), as insensible and incapable of receiving any spiritual impression as the fat near it (Psalm 17:10; Psalm 73:7; Isaiah 6:10); as for me, in thy law do I delight.

It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
71. Cp. Psalm 119:67.

The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
72. This is the lesson he has learnt in the school of affliction—the inestimable preciousness of God’s law. Cp. Psalm 119:14; Proverbs 8:10-11.

JOD. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.
73. fashioned] Or, established. Cp. Job 10:8; Deuteronomy 32:6.

give me understanding &c.] Complete Thy work: Thou hast made my bodily frame, perfect my spirit.

73–80. Yôd. God has afflicted him in faithfulness: yet now O that He would comfort him, for the encouragement of the godly and the confusion of the proud.

They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.
74. Let them that fear thee see me and he glad: let them rejoice when they see in me an example of the reward of trustful patience. Cp. Psalm 69:32.

I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.
75. that thy judgments are right] Righteous (R.V.), lit. righteousness. Cp. Psalm 119:7; Psalm 119:62, &c.

hast afflicted me] Cp. Deuteronomy 8:2-3; Deuteronomy 8:16, where the same word is rendered to humble. All God’s laws are in conformity with the perfect standard of His righteousness: faithfulness to His covenant leads him to use the discipline of chastisement to teach men obedience to those laws. Cp. Deuteronomy 32:4.

Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant.
76, 77. Yet man needs to be comforted and revived lest he be overwhelmed by trouble (Hebrews 12:11). Cp. Psalm 119:50; Psalm 119:82.

thy merciful kindness] thy lovingkindness.

thy word] of promise; e.g. Jeremiah 31:13; Isaiah 51:3; Isaiah 66:13; Zechariah 1:17.

Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live: for thy law is my delight.
77. thy tender mercies] Thy compassions (Psalm 119:156). Cp. Deuteronomy 13:17-18; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 54:7; Zechariah 1:16.

Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.
78. for they dealt perversely with me without a cause] Better, for they have subverted me by falsehood. Cp. Lamentations 3:36.

Let those that fear thee turn unto me, and those that have known thy testimonies.
79. and those that have known &c.] Even those who know. So the Q’rç, with LXX, Syr., Jer. The K’thîbh has and they shall know, or, that they may know, with the Targ. This gives the best sense. Let my experience of Thy mercy shew the godly the blessedness of keeping Thy testimonies.

Let my heart be sound in thy statutes; that I be not ashamed.
80. sound] Perfect, cp. Psalm 119:1.

CAPH. My soul fainteth for thy salvation: but I hope in thy word.
81, 82. The soul grows faint, the eye dim, with the prolonged strain of watching for the fulfilment of God’s promise to deliver His servant. Cp. Psalm 119:123; Psalm 69:3; Psalm 84:2; Lamentations 4:17.

81–88. Kaph. Faith persevering in the midst of persecution when God defers His help, and seems to be leaving him to be the prey of his enemies.

Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?
82. saying] R.V. while I say.

For I am become like a bottle in the smoke; yet do I not forget thy statutes.
83. For I am become like a wineskin in the smoke; yet &c.] As a wineskin out of use hung up among the rafters of the roof grows shrivelled and blackened by the smoke till it almost loses its original appearance, so the Psalmist is growing emaciated and disfigured by suffering and sorrow till he can scarcely be recognised. Cp. Psalm 109:24. Some commentators suppose that there is a reference to the custom of mellowing wine by putting it in the smoke (cp. “amphorae fumum bibere institutae,” Horace, Odes, iii. 8. 11), and that the figure means that the Psalmist is being exposed to suffering to soften and mature his character, though the process is being continued so long that he is becoming unsightly and unrecognisable. At first sight this explanation is attractive, but the simile is clearly intended to describe bad not good effects of suffering. In spite of these, he does not forget God’s commandments. The curious rendering of LXX, Symm., Syr., Jer., like a wineskin in hoar frost, has no claim to consideration.

How many are the days of thy servant? when wilt thou execute judgment on them that persecute me?
84. How many &c.] Few at the most. The brevity of life is an argument for the speedy punishment of the Psalmist’s persecutors, otherwise he may not live to see God’s justice vindicated. Cp. Psalm 89:47; Psalm 102:11 ff.

The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.
85. pits] A metaphor from the pitfalls used by hunters. Cp. Psalm 57:6; and especially Jeremiah 18:20; Jeremiah 18:22.

which] Rather, who. His enemies are presumptuous sinners, who despise and defy God’s law (Psalm 119:21; Psalm 119:53). Godless Israelites are clearly meant.

All thy commandments are faithful: they persecute me wrongfully; help thou me.
86. faithful] Lit. faithfulness (cp. Psalm 119:75; Psalm 119:138); they are an expression of the character of God, in strong contrast to the falsehood (cp. Psalm 119:78) with which his persecutors assail him.

They had almost consumed me upon earth; but I forsook not thy precepts.
87. His persecutors had almost succeeded in making an end of him, yet he still held fast to the law. The second line brings the godlessness of their conduct into prominence.

upon earth] The scene of life: or, in the land: the Psalmist and such as he were almost exterminated. Cp. Psalm 12:1.

Quicken me after thy lovingkindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.
88. If he is to continue glorifying God by the observance of His law, God must preserve his life, and free it from the hindrances which impede its devotion to His service.

LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
89. The A.V. rightly follows the LXX, Targ. and Jer. in treating the verse as one clause, the accentual division of the Hebr. being regarded as rhythmical not logical. Jehovah’s word is eternal, immutable; it belongs to that sphere which is raised above the accidents of chance and change, and shares its attributes. Cp. Psalm 89:2.

is settled] Standeth fast.

89–96. Lamed. The eternity, immutability, and comprehensiveness of God’s law, which has been the Psalmist’s support in affliction.

Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth.
90. The permanence of the earth which God has created is an emblem and guarantee of the permanence of His faithfulness. Cp. Psalm 78:69. Kay refers to a sermon by Chalmers on “The Constancy of God in His Works an argument for the Faithfulness of God in His Word.”

They continue this day according to thine ordinances: for all are thy servants.
91. This verse may be rendered,

According to thine ordinances [judgements] they abide [stand] this day,

For all things are thy servants.

The thought of the preceding verses is developed. Heaven and earth obey and subserve the ordinances of God. His Will is the universal law of Nature.

A slightly different rendering however agrees better with the second line: For thy judgements they (heaven and earth) stand ready this day; they are constantly prepared to perform Thy behests, for all things subserve Thy Will.

Either of these renderings is preferable to that of R.V. marg., As for thy judgements, they abide this day.

this day] i.e. unto this day.

“From the ministering of the Archangel to the labour of the insect, from the poising of the planets to the gravitation of a grain of dust, the power and glory of all creatures, and all matter, consist in their obedience, not in their freedom.” Ruskin, The Two Paths, Lect. v., quoted by Kay.

Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction.
92. then] emphatically, in that case. But for the refreshment of God’s law, he would have utterly lost heart in affliction (Isaiah 40:29-31). This had revived him (Psalm 119:93), in this (Psalm 119:95) he had found consolation when his life was in peril.

I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me.
I am thine, save me; for I have sought thy precepts.
94. sought] Or, studied. Cp. Psalm 119:45.

The wicked have waited for me to destroy me: but I will consider thy testimonies.
I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
96. The meaning may be, ‘I have learnt by experience that all earthly perfection has its limit; but God’s commandment is unlimited in extent and value.’ The word for ‘perfection’ (tiklâh) however occurs here only, and if its sense is to be determined by that of the most closely cognate word taklîth, it would seem to mean rather ‘completeness,’ the sum of things. The sum of earthly things is limited, Jehovah’s law is infinite.

MEM. O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.
97. P.B.V. follows LXX and Vulg. in adding Lord to the first clause, where it seems to be wanted.

97–104. Mçm. The sweetness and profitableness of the study of God’s law. This stanza and that of Shîn (Psalm 119:161 ff.) contain no petition.

Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me.
98. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser &c.] A scarcely possible rendering, though it has some support in the Ancient Versions. Better as R.V., Thy commandments make me wiser &c. For the sense cp. Deuteronomy 4:6.

for they are ever with me] Lit. For it is mine for ever. The use of the singular ‘it,’ as well as of the singular verb in the preceding line, implies the unity of God’s law, though it includes many commandments. This law is his possession. Cp. Psalm 119:111.

I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.
99. than all my teachers] Who derive their learning from other sources. Delitzsch thinks that Psalm 119:98-100 refer to teachers and elders who, like the Hellenizing Sadducees, were in danger of apostasy through their laxity, and persecuted the strict young zealot for God’s law. But clearly the Psalmist’s point is not the superiority of his own stricter interpretation of the law to the laxer interpretation of his teachers, but the superiority of the law to all other sources of instruction as a fountain of wisdom and prudence and discernment.

I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
100. I have more discernment than the aged] It is not official ‘elders’ who are meant, but those whose long life has given them opportunity to learn by experience.

I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word.
101. The meaning may be either, that he has studiously avoided all places of temptation in order that he might observe the law, or, that the self-restraint which has marked his conduct has sprung from no lower aim than the desire to obey God.

I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.
102. From thy judgements have I not turned aside;

For thou thyself hast instructed me.

God Himself has been his teacher, not men: therefore he has been enabled to keep in the path of right. Cp. Psalm 86:11.

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
103. Cp. Psalm 19:10; Job 23:12; John 4:32; John 4:34.

my taste] Lit. my palate.

Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
104. The study of God’s law gives him the power of discernment to “prove the spirits,” and reject all false teaching and laxity of conduct. Cp. Psalm 119:29; Psalm 119:128.

NUN. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
105. Cp. Proverbs 6:23. God’s word is a light to guide him safely amid the dangers which beset his path through the darkness of this world. Contrast the fate of the wicked, Psalm 35:6.

105–112. Nûn. Knowing the value of God’s law as the guide of life the Psalmist is resolved to keep it, whatever may be the risk.

I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
106. and I will perform it] So Jer. perseverabo. But LXX, Syr., Targ., agree with the Mass. text in reading, with a slightly different vocalisation, and have confirmed, or ratified it, or perhaps, have performed it.

righteous judgments] Cp. Psalm 119:7.

I am afflicted very much: quicken me, O LORD, according unto thy word.
107. Resolute observance of the law however has exposed him to persecution; therefore he prays God to preserve his life according to His promise. Cp. Psalm 119:25.

Accept, I beseech thee, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O LORD, and teach me thy judgments.
108. the freewill offerings of my mouth] The sacrifice of prayer and praise (Hebrews 13:15); voluntary vows of devotion to the law. Cp. Psalm 19:14.

teach me &c.] Cp. Psalm 119:12 &c. Vows of obedience are vain without Divine instruction and grace.

My soul is continually in my hand: yet do I not forget thy law.
109. ‘To put one’s life in one’s hand’ is a metaphor for hazarding it (Jdg 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Job 13:14), apparently because a treasure carried in the hand instead of being concealed is liable to be lost or snatched away. The reading of some MSS of the LXX in thy hands is doubtless a correction of a phrase which was not understood.

The wicked have laid a snare for me: yet I erred not from thy precepts.
110. An explanation of the preceding verse. His life is threatened by enemies, apparently because of his devotion to the law, but no dangers or persecutions tempt him to indifference or apostasy. Cp. Psalm 119:85-87.

yet I erred not] Yet went I not astray, as Psalm 119:176.

Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart.
111. Israel through its sins had forfeited the land promised to it for an eternal inheritance (Genesis 13:15; Exodus 32:13), and never wholly recovered it; but the godly Israelite has an eternal inheritance in the law of which no enemy can deprive him.

the rejoicing of my heart] Cp. Jeremiah 15:16.

I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.
112. alway, even unto the end] R.V. for ever, even unto the end, rendering ‘çqeb as in Psalm 119:33. Cp. Psalm 119:44 for the sense. But the meaning may be eternal (lit. for ever) is the reward. Cp. Psalm 19:11. So the LXX, διʼ ἀντάμειψιν, for the sake of recompence, Jer. propter aeternam retributionem.

SAMECH. I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.
113. vain thoughts] Rather as R.V., them that are of a double mind, unstable waverers, half Israelites, half heathen. Cp. 1 Kings 18:21; James 1:8.

113–120. Samech. The loyalty of the Psalmist and his hope contrasted with the faithlessness of the wicked and their fate.

Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.
114. Cp. Psalm 32:7; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 119:74; Psalm 119:81.

Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.
115. Cp. Psalm 6:8.

for I will keep … my God] R.V. that I may keep. He would be rid of their presence, that they may no longer hinder him from keeping the law, by evil example or even by actual persecution. Significantly he calls God ‘my God,’ implying that though they profess to serve Him, He is not really theirs.

Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.
116. But in order to keep God’s commandments, he needs sustaining grace. Cp. Psalm 51:12; Psalm 3:5; Psalm 37:17; Psalm 37:24.

be ashamed of my hope] Be disappointed and put to shame by the failure of my hope of deliverance. Cp. Psalm 119:166.

Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.
117. Cp. Psalm 18:35; Psalm 20:2; Psalm 41:3; Psalm 94:18.

and I will have respect unto] R.V. and shall have respect unto. The Ancient Versions appear to have read will take delight in, as in Psalm 119:16; Psalm 119:47.

Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood.
118. Thou hast trodden down] Rather, hast set at nought (R.V.), or hast rejected.

for their deceit is falsehood] Not, their crafty schemes are vain (R.V. marg.), doomed to be frustrated: but, the principles with which they deceive themselves and mislead others are false and baseless; therefore God rejects them. P.B.V. for they imagine but deceit is derived through the Vulg. (quia iniusta cogitatio eorum) from the LXX, which with Jer., Theod. and Syr. seems to have read tar‘îthâm, ‘their thought,’ for tarmîthâm, ‘their deceit.’ It is an Aramaic word, but the occurrence of an Aramaic word in so late a Psalm would not be impossible, and it may be the right reading.

Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies.
119. Thou puttest away] God removes the wicked, as the refiner of metals throws away the dross. Cp. Jeremiah 6:28-30; Ezekiel 22:18-19; Malachi 3:2-3. LXX however reads I reckon, and Aq., Symm., Jer. thou reckonest (חשבח for השבח). The former does not suit the next line, but the latter may be the true reading.

therefore I love thy testimonies] That I may avoid their fate: or perhaps, because I see thy righteousness manifested in these judgements. Cp. the next verse.

My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.
120. trembleth for fear of thee] Shudders for awe of thee, lit. of the hair standing on end with fright: horrescit.

thy judgments] Either acts of judgement, punishments inflicted upon the wicked, or the laws and ordinances in accordance with which they are punished. Reverent fear is the right complement of holy love. “The flesh is to be awed by Divine judgements, though the higher and surer part of the soul is strongly and freely tied with the cords of love” (Leighton).

AIN. I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.
121. Conscious of his own rectitude the Psalmist prays that he may not be abandoned to the will of his oppressors. His conduct corresponds to the character of God. Cp. Psalm 33:5; Psalm 89:14.

121–128. Ayin. It is time for Jehovah to interpose on behalf of His servant, but the faithlessness of men only confirms his love for the law.

Be surety for thy servant for good: let not the proud oppress me.
122. Be surety for thy servant for good] “Guarantee Thy servant’s welfare” (Kay). Cp. Genesis 43:9; Job 17:3; Isaiah 38:14. P.B.V. make thou thy servant to delight in that which is good follows Targ., Syr. and Kimchi, in explaining the verb from the sense which it bears in Psalm 104:34 and elsewhere, but this cannot be the meaning. Coverdale was unfortunately misled by Münster’s dulce fac servo tuo id quod est bonum to substitute this rendering in the Great Bible of 1539 for the correct rendering which he had given in 1535, “Be thou suertie for thy servant to do him good.”

Mine eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the word of thy righteousness.
123. Cp. Psalm 119:81-82.

the word of thy righteousness] The promise of deliverance which Jehovah, as a righteous and therefore a faithful God, is pledged to fulfil.

Deal with thy servant according unto thy mercy, and teach me thy statutes.
124, 125. The remedy for the despondency of which Psalm 119:123 speaks. Fuller knowledge of God’s law will sustain him under the trial. Cp. Psalm 94:12 ff. In both verses he pleads his relation to Jehovah as His servant as the ground of his prayer.

I am thy servant; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies.
It is time for thee, LORD, to work: for they have made void thy law.
126. It is time for Jehovah to act;

They have broken thy law.

High time it is for Jehovah to interpose with an act of judgement (cp. Jeremiah 18:23, “deal thou with them”), and vindicate His broken law. The second line is decisive in favour of this interpretation: otherwise the first line might be rendered, It is time to act for Jehovah, and Psalm 119:124-125 connected with it, in the sense that in such a crisis fresh knowledge is needed.

Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.
127. Therefore] The more men break God’s commandments, the more the Psalmist will love them. Cp. Psalm 19:10. P.B.V. precious stone comes through the Vulg. from the LXX.

Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right; and I hate every false way.
128. I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right] The Heb. of the Mass. text is most awkward and is almost certainly corrupt. We must read either I esteem all thy precepts to be right (Syr., R.V. marg.; cp. P.B.V.), or with LXX (Vulg.), Jer. according to all thy precepts I direct my goings (cp. Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 15:21), which gives a good contrast to the following line, with which cp. Psalm 119:29; Psalm 119:104.

PE. Thy testimonies are wonderful: therefore doth my soul keep them.
129. wonderful] Superhuman in their excellence: lit. wonders, the term often used of God’s revelation of His power in miraculous acts (Exodus 15:11; Psalm 77:11; Psalm 77:14; cp. Psalm 119:18).

therefore &c.] Their sublimity and mystery does not repel but attracts.

129–136. . The marvellousness of God’s law: the Psalmist’s prayers that it may be the rule of his life in spite of temptation: his grief at the neglect of it.

The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.
130. The entrance of thy words] R.V. the opening of thy words, the setting forth or unfolding of them. Cp. the use of the cognate verb in Psalm 49:4. P.B.V. when thy word goeth forth follows Luther’s earlier rendering wenn dein Wort ausgehet.

the simple] Who need instruction to enable them to discern between right and wrong. Cp. Psalm 19:7 note; Psalm 116:6; Proverbs 1:4.

I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for thy commandments.
131. I opened wide my mouth for the food of this illuminating informing instruction (Job 29:23; Psalm 81:10), and panted in my eagerness to receive it.

Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.
132. Look &c.] Turn unto me and be gracious unto me. So Psalm 25:16; Psalm 86:16.

as thou usest to do &c.] Better, as is the right of those that love thy name. The plea is a bold one, but not too bold. The covenant gives those who love Jehovah’s revelation of Himself (Psalm 5:11; Psalm 69:36) the right to claim His grace. Cp. Hebrews 6:10. The word for right is mishpâṭ, usually rendered judgement.

Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
133. Direct my footsteps, or, make my footsteps firm, in or by thy word, and so let no iniquity have dominion over me, through stress either of temptation from within, or of trial from without. Iniquity or vanity is a comprehensive term for sin as moral worthlessness or antagonism to God; it is the very opposite of that law which is truth.

Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep thy precepts.
134. Redeem me from the oppression of man,

That I may observe thy precepts.

Cp. Psalm 119:121-122.

Make thy face to shine upon thy servant; and teach me thy statutes.
135. Make thy face to shine] Illuminate the darkness that surrounds me with the light of Thy favour. Cp. Psalm 31:16.

and teach &c.] Cp. Psalm 119:12 &c. He desires the restoration of prosperity not merely for its own sake, but as an opportunity for gaining further knowledge.

Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not thy law.
136. Mine eyes run down with streams of water] For the phrase cp. Lamentations 3:48; Lamentations 1:16. The righteous indignation which he feels at one moment for the lawlessness of men (Psalm 119:53) is tempered at another by profound sorrow and pity.

TZADDI. Righteous art thou, O LORD, and upright are thy judgments.
137. Righteous] This fundamental attribute of the Author of the law necessarily determines its character in all its aspects. Cp. Psalm 19:9.

upright are &c.] R.V. marg. upright in thy judgements is a possible but less obvious construction.

137–144. Tsâdç. The righteousness, purity, and truth of God’s law command the Psalmist’s deepest love and reverence.

Thy testimonies that thou hast commanded are righteous and very faithful.
138. Thou hast commanded thy testimonies in righteousness

And faithfulness to the uttermost.

Cp. Psalm 119:86; Psalm 119:90; Psalm 119:144; Psalm 119:151; Deuteronomy 4:8. God’s commandments which bear witness to His Will and man’s duty are the expression of His absolute righteousness and of that faithfulness to His covenant which is an inalienable element of that righteousness. Cp. 2 Timothy 2:13.

My zeal hath consumed me, because mine enemies have forgotten thy words.
139. Cp. Psalm 69:9.

Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.
140. pure] Lit. tried, or, refined: like pure gold without any admixture of dross. Cp. Psalm 18:30; Psalm 12:6.

I am small and despised: yet do not I forget thy precepts.
141. small and despised] Insignificant in the eyes of men (not, as LXX, young, νεώτερος), and despised for his strict adherence to the law; but neither the glamour of worldly power nor the sting of worldly contempt can move him from his allegiance.

Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and thy law is the truth.
142. is the truth] Is truth. Cp. Psalm 119:151; Psalm 119:160; Psalm 19:9; John 17:17.

Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet thy commandments are my delights.
143. have taken hold on me] Have befallen me, lit. found me.

The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live.
144. The righteousness of thy testimonies is everlasting] Righteous (lit. righteousness) are thy testimonies for ever, reflecting Thine own eternal righteousness. They are neither imperfect nor temporary. Cp. Matthew 5:17 ff.

give me understanding &c.] He ends this contemplation of the character of God’s law with a prayer for fuller understanding of it, for through knowledge of it and obedience to it man really lives, truly realises the purpose of his being. Cp. Psalm 119:17; Psalm 119:77; Psalm 119:116; Proverbs 4:4; Proverbs 4:13; Deuteronomy 32:47.

KOPH. I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep thy statutes.
145. I have called with my whole heart; answer me, Jehovah] The perfect tense expresses the habit of his whole life.

145–152. Qôph. Unceasing prayer to be kept faithful in the midst of faithlessness is the rule of the Psalmist’s life.

I cried unto thee; save me, and I shall keep thy testimonies.
146. I have called unto thee; save me,

That I may observe thy testimonies.

I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in thy word.
147. In the earliest twilight did I cry for help,

(While) I waited with hope for thy words.

Lit. In the twilight I was beforehand and cried for help. With Psalm 50:2 cp. Psalm 119:74; Psalm 119:81; Psalm 119:114.

Mine eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in thy word.
148. Mine eyes prevent [or are beforehand with, the same word as in Psalm 119:147] the night watches] The night was divided into three watches by the Israelites (Lamentations 2:19; Jdg 7:19; 1 Samuel 11:11). He compares himself to a sentinel who wakes before it is time for him to go on duty. Possibly, as Baethgen suggests, there is a reference to the author’s duties as a Levite. Before the hour when he must rise for his watch in the Temple he is awake, and meditating on God’s words. Cp. Psalm 119:62; Psalm 63:6.

Hear my voice according unto thy lovingkindness: O LORD, quicken me according to thy judgment.
149. according to thy judgment] Or, ordinance, “the gracious rule of action Thou hast laid down for Thyself; Thy method of dealing with those that seek Thee early” (Kay). P.B.V. and R.V. marg. as thou art wont take mishpâṭ (‘judgement’) to mean rule, custom. Cp. A.V. of Psalm 119:132. The LXX, Targ. and Jer. support the singular, but if the plural be read, according to the Massoretic vocalisation, as in Psalm 119:156, the sense will not differ greatly. Thy judgements will mean the various examples of God’s rule of action which declare His will to preserve the life of His servants.

They draw nigh that follow after mischief: they are far from thy law.
150, 151. They draw nigh that maliciously persecute me,

That have gone far from thy law.

Thou art nigh, Jehovah &c.

These two verses are closely connected. When my persecutors draw near to assail me, Thou art near to defend (Psalm 69:18; Psalm 34:18; Deuteronomy 4:7); though they have abandoned Thy law, I know the truth of all its commandments, and will not be tempted to join them in apostasy. The reading of LXX, Symm., Syr., Jer., my persecutors in malice seems preferable to that of the Mass. text that follow after malice. The difference is one of vocalisation only.

Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.
Concerning thy testimonies, I have known of old that thou hast founded them for ever.
152. Of old have I known from thy testimonies, that &c. (R.V.). Men may affirm or act as if they believed that God’s laws are obsolete: but from the study of those laws themselves the Psalmist has long ago learnt their eternal validity; and his deeply rooted convictions cannot be shaken by the contempt or the threats of his enemies.

RESH. Consider mine affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget thy law.
153. Consider mine affliction] Lit. see. It was the prayer of Israel in exile (Lamentations 1:9), reminding God of His own words when He was about to deliver His people from Egypt (Exodus 3:7).

153–160. Rçsh. More urgent prayers for deliverance from his persecutors. Note the thrice-repeated ‘quicken me.’

Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.
154. Plead my cause] The dispute between him and his persecutors is represented as a lawsuit: will not Jehovah be his advocate? Cp. Psalm 35:1; Psalm 43:1; Isaiah 51:22.

deliver me] Redeem me, as from bondage. Cp. Exodus 6:6; Exodus 15:13; Psalm 19:14, and the frequent description of Jehovah as Israel’s Redeemer from exile in Isaiah 40-66.

Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes.
155. seek not] Or, study not. Cp. Psalm 119:45; Psalm 119:94.

Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments.
156. Great are thy tender mercies] Thy compassions (Psalm 119:77). Cp. 2 Samuel 24:14; Nehemiah 9:19; Nehemiah 9:27; Nehemiah 9:31 (A.V. thy manifold mercies); Daniel 9:18.

quicken me &c.] Cp. Psalm 119:149 b.

Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies.
I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word.
158. I have seen the treacherous dealers and felt loathing,

Because they have not observed thy word.

Apostate Israelites are meant, faithless to the covenant. Far from being attracted by them, he felt disgust and loathing (Psalm 139:21) as he watched them and their ways.

Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness.
159. Consider how &c.] Lit. see that &c.; or possibly (cp. Psalm 119:153), look upon me, for I love thy precepts.

Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
160. The sum of thy word is truth, or perhaps, as LXX, Jer., of thy words. If he reckons up all God’s words of command or promise, their sum total is truth. Cp. John 14:6.

SCHIN. Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart standeth in awe of thy word.
161. His loyalty to the law has not been shaken by the gratuitous hostility of the civil authorities; rather has he feared to offend God. By princes are probably meant Israelite nobles, who exercised judicial and administrative functions. Cp. Psalm 119:23; Jeremiah 26:10 ff.; Ezra 9:1-2; Ezra 10:8; Ezra 10:14; Nehemiah 9:32; Nehemiah 9:34; Nehemiah 9:38.

thy word] So the Q’rç, with Syr., Targ.; R.V. thy words, with K’thîbh, LXX, Jer.

161–168. Shîn (and Sîn). God’s law fills the Psalmist’s heart with awe, joy, love, and gratitude; he has been diligent in its observance. It is not the boasting of the Pharisee, but the honest profession of a good conscience. This stanza and that of Mçm (Psalm 119:97 ff.) contain no petition.

I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.
162. Holy awe is not inconsistent with holy joy. Cp. Psalm 119:119-120; Matthew 28:8.

as one &c.] Cp. Isaiah 9:3.

I hate and abhor lying: but thy law do I love.
163. I hate falsehood and will abhor it] Falsehood denotes heathenism and heathenish tendencies, in contrast to the truth of God’s law. Cp. Psalm 119:29; Psalm 119:104; Psalm 119:128. The best attested text reads will abhor.

Seven times a day do I praise thee because of thy righteous judgments.
164. Seven times a day] Not merely morning noon and night (Psalm 55:17), but constantly and repeatedly. Cp. Proverbs 24:16; &c.

righteous judgments] Cp. Psalm 119:7, &c.

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.
165. Those who love the law find it a spring of constant inward peace, even in the midst of outward persecution: and they have none occasion of stumbling (R.V.). Cp. 1 John 2:10, and the LXX here, οὐκ ἔστιν αὐτοῖς σκάνδαλον. “They walk firmly and safely on the clear path of duty” without stumbling and falling through sin. Cp. Ezekiel 18:30, “Repent … and iniquity shall not be a stumblingblock unto you.” They are not ‘scandalized,’ made to stumble and driven into scepticism by the sight of the anomalies of the world, such as suffering goodness and triumphant wickedness. “They are free from the ‘stumbling of heart’ (1 Samuel 25:31)—the paralysing weakness—which follows on the consciousness of having wronged, or of bearing ill-will to, a brother” (Kay). The P.B.V. and they are not offended at it appears to be Coverdale’s mistaken paraphrase of the Zürich Version, “und werdend sich niemermer stossen.”

166 a. From Genesis 49:18, with the substitution of a later word sibbçr for hope for the sake of the initial letter.

and have done thy commandments] To the LXX the phrase seemed over-bold, and they substituted and loved (cp. Psalm 119:163). The same feeling may have prompted Coverdale to render “done after thy commandments.”

167 a. Cp. 129 b.

and I love] P.B.V. and loved is from LXX through Vulg. So also Jer.

LORD, I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy commandments.
My soul hath kept thy testimonies; and I love them exceedingly.
I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies: for all my ways are before thee.
168. With the courage of a good conscience he appeals to God’s omniscience in proof of the sincerity of his purpose.

before thee] Cp. for the phrase Psalm 38:9, and for the thought, Hebrews 4:13.

TAU. Let my cry come near before thee, O LORD: give me understanding according to thy word.
169, 170. These verses are closely connected. My cry denotes literally the outward expression of urgent entreaty in a shrill passionate outcry (cp. Psalm 17:1 note): my supplication for favour refers to the substance of his prayer. Once more he prays for fuller understanding or discernment, and for the freedom of outward circumstance which will enable him to use it. As the ground of both prayers he pleads God’s word of promise.

169–176. Tâv. Concluding petitions for understanding and deliverance, for the grace of thankfulness, for help and guidance.

Let my supplication come before thee: deliver me according to thy word.
My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes.
171, 172. Let my lips pour forth praise,

Because thou teachest me thy statutes.

Let my tongue sing of thy word,

For all thy commandments are righteousness.

The optative form of the verb in Psalm 119:172 is in favour of a similar rendering in Psalm 119:171. He prays for a spirit of joyous, exuberant thankfulness for God’s continuous teaching, and for the character of the law which is the substance of that teaching.

My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.
Let thine hand help me; for I have chosen thy precepts.
173. Let thine hand be ready to help me (R.V.).

for &c.] Psalm 119:174 is best taken in close connexion with Psalm 119:173 b. He pleads three reasons for an answer to his prayers:—he has deliberately resolved to obey God’s precepts (cp. Psalm 119:30; Deuteronomy 30:19); he has long been waiting eagerly for deliverance from the hindrances to obedience which surround him (cp. Psalm 119:40; Psalm 119:166); his devotion has been no grudging service, but his constant delight (Psalm 119:24 &c.).

I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.
Let my soul live, and it shall praise thee; and let thy judgments help me.
175. and it shall praise thee] Or, that it may praise thee. The object of the life for which he has prayed so often—life prolonged, revived, invigorated, freed from the persecutions and trials which impede and prevent the exercise of its full activities—is just this, that his whole self may praise God (Psalm 146:2).

and let thy judgments help me] Either the ordinances which are the rule of his life (102, 106), or acts of judgement, by which his enemies are punished.

I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek thy servant; for I do not forget thy commandments.
176. I have gone astray like a lost sheep] So apparently the Ancient Versions, but the Massoretic accentuation connects like a lost sheep with seek, and suggests the rendering, If I go astray, seek thy servant like a lost sheep; for &c. It need not surprise us if, after all his professions of fidelity and constancy, even including an explicit declaration that in spite of intimidation he had not gone astray from God’s commandments (Psalm 119:110), the Psalmist concludes with a confession of weakness and failure, actual or possible, and acknowledges that he has “erred and strayed from God’s ways like a lost sheep”; while at the same moment he pleads as the reason why God should not forsake him that he has not forgotten God’s commandments. The confession of failure is not inconsistent with the profession of devotion. As in Psalm 19:12-14, which may have been in the Psalmist’s mind, the thought of the law naturally leads up to the thought of his own frailty and need to be brought back when he wanders. Cp. Isaiah 53:6; Psalm 95:10. If he has erred, it is a temporary and involuntary aberration: his will and purpose to serve God are unchanged, and he prays that God will not abandon him.

It seems however more in accordance with the general spirit of the Psalm to suppose that the Psalmist is describing his outward circumstances rather than his spiritual state, the helplessness of his condition rather than his moral failures. He is a wanderer in the wilderness of the world; like a sheep that has been separated from the flock he is exposed to constant dangers, and therefore he beseeches God not to leave him to wander alone, but in accordance with His promise (Ezekiel 34:11 ff.) to seek for him, for amid all these dangers he does not forget God’s law. So Israel in the Dispersion is compared to a strayed sheep, Jeremiah 50:6; Jeremiah 50:17; cp. Isaiah 27:13.

lost] The word means ‘strayed and in danger of perishing.’

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