Psalm 119:113-120

Submitted by admin on Mon, 2008-03-03 11:01.

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Each verse starts with the Hebrew letter samekh.

The first Hebrew word is the masculine adjective se‘éph, meaning “divided” or “split.” It may be descriptive of persons who were not truly devoted to the Most High, having no desire consistently to adhere to his ways. The Hebrew term has been variously rendered “double-minded men” (NIV), “those who are not single-minded” (REB), “anyone whose loyalty is divided” (CEV), “a divided heart” (NJB), “men of divided heart” (Tanakh), and “every hypocrite” (NAB). According to the Septuagint, the individuals were lawbreakers. Lacking in love for God, they were not persons with whom the psalmist wanted any association. As suggested by his referring to his own love for the law, he hated them on account of their lawless ways.

He regarded the Almighty as his “hiding place” (“helper,” LXX) and “shield” (“protector,” LXX). Like a hiding place, YHWH would shelter the psalmist from his enemies, providing him with needed security. The Most High would protect him as would a shield. In God’s “word,” the psalmist continued to hope, confident that YHWH would fulfill his promise to aid all those who are devoted to him.

The psalmist wanted evildoers to go away from him. He wished to be completely free from their corrupt influence, as his desire was to observe the commands of his God.

In harmony with God’s word, the promise to help his servants, the psalmist prayed to be supported or not allowed to experience a downfall. He would then be able to live, his life having been preserved or his having been refreshed and strengthened. His plea not to be put to shame respecting his hope constituted a petition for deliverance from his distressing situation. If his hope in being rescued from his perilous circumstances were not to be fulfilled, he would experience shame or bitter disappointment.

For the psalmist to be delivered from danger, he needed the Most High to uphold him or, according to the Septuagint, to “help” him. His plea was not a mere expression for his life to be preserved, for it was his desire to focus on (“meditate on,” LXX) God’s statutes continually. This attention to God’s statutes would have been with the intent of conforming his life to them.

The psalmist recognized that YHWH disdained those who strayed from his statutes, casting off or rejecting such faithless ones. Their “deceitfulness” (a possible meaning of the plural Hebrew word tarmíth) would prove to be a falsehood, completely failing in attaining the desired objective.

There is uncertainty about the meaning of the plural Hebrew word tarmíth. Translators have variously rendered the phrase where this word appears (“for their cunning is in vain” [NRSV]; “for vain is their deceit” [NAB]; “for they are false and deceitful” [Tanakh]; “for their whole talk is malice and lies” [REB]; “deceit fills their horizon” [NJB]). In the Septuagint, the entire verse reads, “You despised all those defecting from your statutes, because their thought [was] unjust.”

Like dross, the waste product of the refining process, YHWH destroys “all the wicked of the earth” or land. This expression of divine justice prompted the psalmist to say, “Therefore, I love your testimonies” or the solemn charges that he faithfully heeded but which the wicked defiantly disregarded. The Septuagint, however, conveys a different meaning for the first half of the verse. “[As] transgressors I have accounted all the sinners of the earth [land]. Therefore, I always loved your testimonies.”

The psalmist’s flesh “trembled” or came to have goose bumps on account of his having a wholesome fear of YHWH. In the Septuagint, the psalmist is portrayed as requesting that the fear of God would “nail down” (kathelóo) his flesh, perhaps signifying that any wrong fleshly desires would be restrained. His being afraid of God’s judgments may mean that he had a proper regard for them, not wanting to violate what the Most High had decreed to be just or right. Another possibility is that the nature of God’s judgments filled him with awe.