Psalm 108:1-4

Psalm 108:1-4
NL 218


A Song.A A PsalmB of David.C

Notes on superscript

A “song” = shir. From shir (to sing; one who is singing or leading others in song). This is song or singer.
B “psalm” = mizmor. From zamar (making music; used specially of music to worship God; music with singing, singing praise, singing psalms); may be from zamar (to trim or prune). This is a melody or a psalm.
C “David” = David. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”

My heartD is steadfast,E O God,F my heart is steadfast;
    I will singG and make melody.H
    Awake,I my soul!J

Notes on verse 1

D “heart” = leb. May be related to labab (to encourage; properly, to be encased as with fat; used in a good sense, this means to transport someone with love; used in a bad sense, it can mean to dull one’s senses). This is the heart, courage, one’s inner self, the mind, or the will. Heart is only used in a figurative sense in the Old and New Testaments.
E “is steadfast” = kun. Properly, this means in a perpendicular position. So, it is set up in a literal sense – establish, fix, fasten, prepare. In a figurative sense, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous.
F “God” = Elohim.
G “sing” = shir. Related to “song” in superscript. See note A above.
H “make melody” = zamar. Related to “psalm” in superscript. See note B above.
I “awake” = aph. This is also, furthermore, even.
J “soul” = kabod. From kabad (to be heavy, weighty, burdensome). This is weighty. Figuratively, glorious, abundant, riches, honor, splendor – a reference to one’s reputation or character. This word is often used to describe God and God’s presence.

Awake,K O harpL and lyre!M
    I will awakeN the dawn.O

Notes on verse 2

K “awake” = ur. This is to arise, lift, exult, or stir. It is to wake in a literal or figurative sense.
L “harp” = nebel. From nabel (to fall away, faint, wither, languish, sink; figuratively, being senseless, foolish, or wicked; to despise, disgrace, or fall to nothing, to be seen with contempt). This is a vessel, perhaps made of skins for holding liquids. It could be a skin, vase, or lyre as having a similar shape.
M “lyre” = kinnor. Root may be to twang. This is a lyre or harp.
N “awake” = ur. Same as “awake” in v2. See note K above.
O “dawn” = shachar. Root may mean to look for in early hour or in a diligent way. This is dawn, early light, or morning.

I will give thanksP to you, O Lord,Q among the peoples,R
    and I will sing praisesS to you amongT the nations.U

Notes on verse 3

P “give thanks” = yadah. From yad (hand). This is to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise. So, it is to praise, give thanks, or make a confession.
Q “Lord” = YHVH. From havah (to be, become) or hayah (to come to pass, become, be). This is the name of the God of Israel, the self-existent and eternal one, the tetragrammaton. This pronunciation has been lost to time so “Lord” is generally used in its place.
R “peoples” = am. From amam (to darken, hide, associate; creating shadows by huddling together). This is people or nation. It can be used specifically for a tribe, collectively of troops or armies, or figuratively to refer to a flock of animals.
S “sing praises” = zamar. Same as “make melody” in v1. See note H above.
T “among” = bal. From balah (to grow old, wear out, consume, waste, enjoy, fail, decay). This is not, lest, neither. Properly, it refers to a failure, so it implies nothing or not at all.
U “nations” = leom. Root may refer to gathering. This is people, a community, or a nation.

For your steadfast love is higherV than the heavens,W
    and your faithfulnessX reaches to the clouds.Y, Z

Notes on verse 4

V “higher” = gadol. From gadal (to grow up, become great, become wealthy – to advance. The root meaning may be to twist in the sense of the process of growing). This is great, high, bigger, noble, old, marvelous. It can also refer to someone who is powerful or distinguished.
W “heavens” = shamayim. Root may mean being lofty. This is sky, the air, or heaven. It is in a dual noun form so this might refer to the part of the sky where the clouds move on the one hand and the part beyond that where the sun, moon, and stars are on the other hand.
X “faithfulness” = chesed. From chasad (being good, kind, merciful; may mean bowing one’s neck as is done in the presence of an equal for courtesy’s sake; so, if one in a superior position is treating you like an equal, that is what is captured here). This is favor, goodness, kindness, loving kindness, pity, reproach, or a good deed. When done by God to humanity, this is mercy/loving kindness. When done by humanity to God, it is piety.
Y “clouds” = shachaq. From shachaq (to rub off, wear away, pulverize). This is powder, dust, vapor. It can also refer to the sky or a cloud.
Z {untranslated} = emet. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This is firmness or stability. Figuratively, it is faithfulness, truth, or trustworthiness. This is the same root that “amen” comes from.

Image credit: “The Hero or the Herald” by Vieira da Silva. Photo by Pedro Ribeiro Simões, 2019.

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