Psalm 119:25-32

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2008-02-25 12:25.

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Every verse begins with the Hebrew letter daleth.

In his afflicted state, the psalmist portrayed his “soul” or himself as cleaving to the dust. This suggests that he found himself in a very low condition, comparable to that of a person lying prostrate on the ground. He petitioned the Most High to deliver him from his distressing circumstances, infusing him with life “according to [his] word” or reviving him in keeping with his promise to aid his servants.

The psalmist’s telling of his “ways” likely refers to his laying bare all his thoughts and concerns before God, not keeping anything hidden. YHWH answered him, responding favorably to his petition. The psalmist desired to know God’s statutes, wanting to do what is right. Therefore, he prayed that the Almighty would teach him these statutes.

He wanted God to make him understand the “way of [his] precepts” or the course these commands directed him to follow. When granted this understanding, the psalmist would be able to meditate on God’s “wondrous works.” He would give careful consideration to what the precepts revealed about the marvelous manner in which the Most High deals with humans.

When describing what was happening to his “soul” or to him personally on account of his grief, the psalmist used the Hebrew word daláph, which basically denotes “leak,” “pour out,” or “trickle.” This could mean that, in his sorrow, he “poured out” or shed tears. A number of translation make this sense explicit. “I weep in bitter pain.” (NAB) “My soul cries because of sorrow.” (NLB) Other renderings found in modern translations include: “My soul melts away from sorrow.” (NRSV) “I am overcome by sorrow.” (GNT, Second Edition) “I am weary from grief.” (HCSB)

On the basis of Akkadian, daláph has been understood to signify “sleeplessness,” indicating that the psalmist’s grief interfered with his being able to rest properly. “Because of my misery I cannot rest.” (REB)

Rahlfs’ text of the Septuagint has a form of the word stázo (“drop,” “trickle,” or “drip”) as the rendering for daláph. Other printed texts, however, read nystázo (“slumber” or “doze”). According to this rendering, the psalmist found himself dozing from exhaustion.

It appears that the psalmist’s sorrow had greatly weakened him. This prompted him to pray, “Strengthen me according to your word.” He wanted God to fulfill his promise to come to his aid, bringing an end to his weak or helpless state.

The psalmist appealed to YHWH to distance him from the “way of falsehood” or the “way of wrongdoing” (LXX). His desire was to be as far away as possible from a course that would alienate him from his God. He wanted to be restrained from yielding to any kind of falsehood, deception, or corrupt action.

The psalmist then continued, “And your law—be gracious to me.” This could signify that he wanted to be favored with the help needed to observe the law or that, in expression of God’s kindness to him, he desired to be instructed in the law. Both meanings have been made explicit in modern translations. “Have mercy on me by helping me obey your teachings.” (NCV) “Grant me the grace of living by your law.” (REB) “Be kind enough to teach me your Law.” (CEV) “Graciously give me Your instruction.” (HCSB) “Graciously teach me your law.” (ESV) “In your goodness teach me your law.” (GNT, Second Edition) “Favor me with your teaching.” (NAB) The Septuagint reading (“by your law show me mercy”) could mean that the psalmist desired to be the recipient of the mercy promised in the law.

Having rejected the “way of falsehood,” the psalmist chose the “way of faithfulness” or “truth” (LXX), conforming his life to the divine standard of uprightness. He recognized God’s “judgments” as set forth in the law as appropriate, providing him with essential guidance. According to the Septuagint, he had not forgotten or failed to consider God’s judgments.

He clung to God’s testimonies or faithfully adhered to God’s solemn charges. On this basis, he prayed that YHWH would not let him be put to shame, allowing the distressing circumstances to continue. If the psalmist’s appeal had gone unanswered, it would have made it appear to others that his faithful adherence to God’s way did not benefit him.

His “running” in the way of God’s commandments probably relates to his following a course of obedience, heeding the commandments with the eager determination characteristic of a runner in pursuit of his goal. The psalmist attributed his being able to “run” in this manner to YHWH’s having enlarged his “heart.” This could mean that the Most High had made it possible for his mind to understand the commandments or that he had granted him an inner desire to obey them. These possible meanings are reflected in the renderings of a number of translations. “I will eagerly obey your commands, because you will give me more understanding.” (GNT, Second Edition) “I pursue the way of Your commands, for You broaden my understanding.” (HCSB) “I will run the way of Your Law, for You will give me a willing heart.” (NLB)