Psalm 119:49-56

Submitted by admin on Wed, 2008-02-27 11:46.

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Every verse starts with the Hebrew letter zayin.

For God to “remember [the] word to [his] servant” would mean for him to carry out the promise applying to the psalmist, the promise to furnish aid in time of need. This was the “word” in which the Most High had made him hope. It constituted the divinely provided basis for the psalmist to wait confidently to be freed from distress.

During the time of his affliction, he found comfort in YHWH’s promise. He continued to look forward to a divinely effected change in his circumstances. God’s “word” or promise gave him life, refreshing him and infusing him with strength.

Insolent ones who had no regard for YHWH’s law mocked him to the limit. This, however, did not turn him aside from conducting himself uprightly. He did not deviate from following God’s law. The Septuagint rendering portrays the arrogant ones as disregarding the law to an excess.

The psalmist remembered God’s judgments. They were “from of old,” for they had been made known to his ancestors. The psalmist always kept these judgments in mind, and they comforted him. This could have been because they revealed that God’s dealings are just, assuring him of future deliverance from his affliction.

Upon observing the wicked who forsook YHWH’s law, the psalmist was seized with indignation. It greatly angered him to witness defiant disregard of God’s law. According to the Septuagint, he experienced discouragement on account of sinners. It was disheartening to him to observe those who lived lawlessly.

To the psalmist, God’s statutes proved to be like songs. This may mean that they were a source of joy, for he delighted in conducting himself in harmony with them. The reference to the “house [place, LXX] of [his] sojourn” could be understood to mean wherever he found himself during his life, a life he regarded as a temporary residence on earth. Modern translations contain various renderings that are more explicit than the Hebrew text and convey different meanings. “Your decrees are the theme of my song wherever I lodge.” (NIV) “Your statutes are the theme of my song throughout my earthly life.” (REB) “Your laws are a source of strength to me wherever I may dwell.” (Tanakh) “Your judgments are my song where I live in exile.” (NJB) “No matter where I am, your teachings fill me with songs.” (CEV)

In the night or during periods of wakefulness, the psalmist would remember God’s name or his thoughts would focus on YHWH, the bearer of the name. His desire was to please his God, faithfully keeping his law.

Concluding the section of verses beginning with the Hebrew letter zayin, the psalmist declared, “This has fallen to me, for I have kept your precepts.” The antecedent for the word “this” (zoth) is not readily apparent, and translations vary in their renderings. “This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.” (NIV) “This is what it means to me, observing your precepts.” (NJB) “This has been my lot, for I have kept your precepts.” “This is my good fortune, for I have observed your precepts.” (NAB) “This blessing has fallen to me, for I have kept your precepts.” (NRSV)

Possibly the psalmist’s words refer to what his lot had come to be on account of his loyal adherence to divine guidance. This would include everything mentioned in verses 49 through 55. God’s word or promise had filled him with hope, brought him comfort, and enlivened him. He had been able to continue heeding God’s law despite ridicule. Although it angered him to see lawlessness, he found God’s statutes to be songs to him, bringing him joy. Even during the wakeful hours of the night, his thoughts were on YHWH and obeying his law.