Psalm 119:1-8

Psalm 119:1-8
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany A


HappyI are those whose wayII is blameless,III

Notes on verse 1a

I “happy” = esher. From ashar (to go straight, lead, guide; to be level and so to be right, blessed, honest, happy). This is happy or blessedness.
II “way” = derek. From darak (to tread, march, to walk. Can also mean affixing a string to a box since one needs to step on it to bend it in the process; so also an archer). This is a road as a thing that is walked on. Can be used figuratively for the path that one’s life takes or how one chooses to live one’s life.
III “blameless” = tamim. From tamam (to finish or accomplish; to make perfect, demonstrate that you are upright; consume; to complete in a literal or figurative sense). This is entire in a literal or figurative sense. So, it could be complete, full, intact, or without defect. Alternately, it could refer to being sound, having integrity, being sincere or perfect.

    who walkIV in the lawV of the Lord.VI

Notes on verse 1b

IV “walk” = halak. This is go, come, walk. It is walk literally and figuratively and includes people and animals. It can be used figuratively for one’s moral life – how we walk according to God’s way or against it. It can also refer to the walk of life as in the course one’s life takes, the choices we make, etc.
V “law” = torah. From yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach). This is law, instruction, teaching, or statute. It can also refer to the first five books of the Bible – the Torah.
VI “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.

Happy are those who keepVII his decrees,VIII
    who seekIX him with their wholeX heart,XI

Notes on verse 2

VII “keep” = natsar. This is to watch, guard, protect. It can be positive – preserve or obey. It can be negative as conceal.
VIII “decrees” = edah. From ed (witness, testimony, recorder); from ud (to admonish, repeat, duplicate, testify, restore, record, relieve). This is testimony or witness.
IX “seek” = darash. This is seek, ask, inquire, care for. Generally it means following in pursuit or following as part of a search, which implies seeking or asking. Also used specially to mean worship.
X “whole” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
XI “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.

who alsoXII doXIII no wrong,XIV
    but walk in his ways.

Notes on verse 3

XII “also” = aph. This is also, furthermore, even.
XIII “do” = paal. This is to do, make, work, or accomplish. Generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – so, to practice.
XIV “wrong” = evel. Perhaps from aval (to deal unjustly, act in a wrongful way, a wrongdoer). This is injustice, wrong, moral evil, acts of violence, or unrighteousness.

You have commandedXV your preceptsXVI
    to be keptXVII diligently.XVIII

Notes on verse 4

XV “commanded” = tsavah. This is to charge, command, order, appoint, or enjoin. This is the root that the Hebrew word for “commandment” comes from (mitsvah).
XVI “precepts” = piqqud. From paqad (to attend to or visit – can be used for a friendly or violent encounter; to oversee, care for, avenge, or charge). This is something that is appointed or decreed by God. It can refer to the Law as a whole or a commandment individually.
XVII “kept” = shamar. This is to keep, watch, or preserve. It means to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something.
XVIII “diligently” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.

O thatXIX my ways may be steadfastXX
    in keepingXXI your statutes!XXII

Notes on verse 5

XIX “o that” = achalay. 2x in OT. Perhaps from ach (ah, oh, alas; used for grief or surprise); {from ahahh (alas, oh; exclamation of pain)} + lu (if only, please, would, I pray; a conditional). This is if only, oh, a wish.
XX “be 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.
XXI “keeping” = shamar. Same as “kept” in v4. See note XVII above.
XXII “statutes” = choq. From chaqaq (to inscribe, carve, or decree; a lawmaker; literally, this is engraving, but it implies enacting a law because laws were carved into stone or metal). This is statute, boundary, condition, custom, limit, ordinance It is something that is prescribed or something that is owed.

Then I shall not be put to shame,XXIII
    having my eyes fixedXXIV on allXXV your commandments.XXVI

Notes on verse 6

XXIII “be put to shame” = bosh. Properly, this means to be pale, which implies shame, disappointment, or confusion.
XXIV “having my eyes fixed” = nabat. This is to behold, look at intently, consider, or scan. It can mean to have respect or regard someone favorably.
XXV “all” = kol. Same as “whole” in v2. See note X above.
XXVI “commandments” = mitsvah. Related to “commanded” in v4. From tsavah (see note XV above). This is a commandment, law, ordinance obligation, or tradition. It is something commanded whether by God or by a human authority. This term is sometimes used collectively to refer to the Law.

I will praiseXXVII you with an uprightXXVIII heart,XXIX

Notes on verse 7a

XXVII “praise” = 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.
XXVIII “upright” = yosher. 14x in OT. From yashar (to be straight, right, even, smooth, or agreeable; figuratively, to make something pleasant or prosperous). This is uprightness, integrity, equity, honest.
XXIX “heart” = lebab. Related to “heart” in v2. It is the same word in a different form. See note XI above.

    when I learnXXX your righteousXXXI ordinances.XXXII

Notes on verse 7b

XXX “learn” = lamad. Properly, this refers to goading (using a pointed stick to guide or prod one’s flock). By implication, it means teaching or instructing.
XXXI “righteous” = tsedeq. This is rightness, righteousness, vindication. It is everything that is just or ethical. That which is right in a natural, moral, or legal sense. It also includes just weights (i.e. true weights). Figuratively, this is justice, righteousness, equity – even prosperity.
XXXII “ordinances” = mishpat. From shaphat (to judge, defend, pronounce judgment, condemn, govern). This is a verdict or formal sentence whether from humans or from God. It includes the act of judging as well as the place that judging takes place, the suit itself, and the penalty. Abstractly, this is justice, which includes the rights of the participants.

I will observeXXXIII your statutes;
    do not utterlyXXXIV forsakeXXXV me.

Notes on verse 8

XXXIII “observe” = shamar. Same as “kept” in v4. See note XVII above.
XXXIV “utterly” = ad + meod. Ad is from the same as ad (old, perpetuity, eternity; a duration going back or forward); from adah (to advance or continue; to take away or remove; adorning oneself with ornaments). This is until or while. Meod is the same as “diligently” in v4. See note XVIII above.
XXXV “forsake” = azab. To loosen, relinquish, permit, forsake, fail, leave destitute.

Image credit: “Close-up of paleo-Hebrew Leviticus scroll, now at the Israel Antiquities Authority in Jerusalem.” Photo by Shai Halevi on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, 2000.

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