Psalm 139:7-14

Psalm 139:7-14
Pentecost Vigil – A Women’s Lectionary


Where can I goA from your spirit?B
    Or where can I fleeC from your presence?D

Notes on verse 7

A “go” = 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.
B “spirit” = ruach. This is breath, wind, air, cool, spirit. This is wind, which resembles the breath and so this can be used figuratively for life itself or being frail/mortal/impermanent. It can refer to the air of the sky or the spirit.
C “flee” = barach. This is to flee, drive away, hurry, to bolt.
D “presence” = paneh. From panah (to turn, face, appear). This is face in a literal or figurative sense. It could be face, presence, anger, respect. It can also be used of God to indicate divine favor or presence.

If I ascendE to heaven,F you are there;
    if I make my bedG in Sheol,H, I you are there.

Notes on verse 8

E “ascend” = nasaq. 1x in OT. Borrowed from Aramaic. From the same as saleq (to come up). This is to go up.
F “heaven” = 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.
G “make…bed” = yatsa. 4x in OT. This is to lay, to spread a bed.
H “Sheol” = Sheol. Perhaps from sha’al (to ask, request). This is the place where the dead go, the grace, the underworld.
I {untranslated} = hen. This is a remark of surprise or excitement: lo! Behold! It can also mean if or though.

If I takeJ the wingsK of the morningL
    and settleM at the farthest limitsN of the sea,O

Notes on verse 9

J “take” = nasa. This is to lift in a broad sense, literally and figuratively. So it could be to carry, take, or arise. It could also be bring forth, advance, accept.
K “wings” = kanaph. This is wing, edge, corner, extremity. It can also be a flap or fold of a garment or the pinnacle of a building.
L “morning” = shachar. Root may mean to look for in early hour or in a diligent way. This is dawn, early light, or morning.
M “settle” = shakan. This is to settle down in the sense of residing somewhere or staying there permanently. It can mean abide or continue. “Mishkan,” taken from this verb, is the Hebrew word for the Tabernacle (as a place where God abided).
N “farthest limits” = acharith. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is the last, length, remnant, end, reward, future.
O “sea” = yam. Root may mean to roar. This is the sea, often referring to the Mediterranean. It comes from the root in the sense of the roar of crashing surf. This word is sometimes used for rivers or other sources of water. It can mean to the west or to the south.

10 even there your handP shall leadQ me,
    and your right handR shall holdS me fast.

Notes on verse 10

P “hand” = yad. This is hand, ability, power. Hand in a literal sense, but also what one can do or the means by which one does it.
Q “lead” = nachah. This is lead, guide, or bring. It can be used for transporting into exile or coming in as colonists. This is the word used in Psalm 23 “he leads me in the paths of righteousness.”
R “right hand” = yamin. May be from yamam (to go or choose the right, use the right hand; to be physically fit or firm). This can mean right hand, right side, or south. Since most people are right-handed, the metaphorical usage of this word presumes that the right hand is stronger and more agile. Thus, it is the instrument of power and action.
S “hold” = achaz. This is to grasp, catch, seize, take and hold in possession. It can also be to be afraid or hold back.

11 If I say, “Surely the darknessT shall coverU me,
    and nightV wrapsW itself around me,”

Notes on verse 11

T “darkness” = choshek. From chashak (to be or become dark). This is literal darkness is contrast to light. Figuratively, it can be obscurity, sorrow, misery, blindness, wickedness, destruction, death. It can also be hiding places. Additionally, it can mean judgment, mourning, ignorance, evil, or sin.
U “cover” = shuph. 4x in OT. This is to gape, bruise, overwhelm, snape at, or cover.
V “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.
W {untranslated} = or. From or (to be or become light). This is light, sun, sunshine, dawn, or daylight. Figuratively, it can refer to light from instruction, light of a face (that is to say one that is cheerful or finds favor). It can refer to prosperity or salvation; a light that guides, a light eternal from Zion.

12 even the darkness is not darkX to you;
    the night is as brightY as the day,Z
    for darknessAA is as lightBB to you.

Notes on verse 12

X “dark” = chashak. Related to “darkness” in v11. 18x in OT. See note T above.
Y “is as bright” = or. Related to {untranslated} in v11. See note W above.
Z “day” = yom. Root may mean being hot. This is the day in a literal or figurative sense. It can also mean birth, age, daylight, continually or other references to time.
AA “darkness” = chashekah. Related to “darkness” in v11 & “dark” in v12. 5x in OT. From chashak (see note T above). This is darkness or misery.
BB “light” = orah. Related to “light” in v11 & “is as bright” in v12. 5x in OT. From or (see note W above). This is something luminous. It can refer to a light, an herb, or, figuratively, prosperity.

13 For it was you who formedCC my inward parts;DD
    you knit me togetherEE in my mother’sFF womb.GG

Notes on verse 13

CC “formed” = qanah. This is to acquire, create, purchase, own. Its root may mean to smith or to produce.
DD “inward parts” = kilyah. Perhaps from keli (something that was prepared – any implement, utensil, article, vessel, weapon, or instrument; also includes jewels, weapons, bags, carriages, and furniture); from kalah (to end, be finished, complete, prepare, consume, spent, or completely destroyed). This is inward parts, such as kidney or heart. It can also be inmost being as feelings, mind, or within.
EE “knit…together” = sakak. This is to cover or overshadow. It could also be to hedge or fence it. Figuratively, this could be to defend, protect, or join together.
FF “mother’s” = em. This is a mother as binding a family together or a breeding female animal. It could be mother in a literal or figurative sense.
GG “womb” = beten. Root may mean to be hollow. This is the belly or womb. It can also refer to a body more broadly.

14 I praiseHH you, for I am fearfullyII and wonderfully made.JJ
    WonderfulKK are your works;LL
that IMM knowNN very well.OO

Notes on verse 14

HH “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.
II “fearfully” = yare. This is to fear, be afraid, dreadful. It can also refer to fearful reverence – to fear in a moral sense is to say to revere, respect.
JJ “wonderfully made” = palah. 7x in OT. This is to distinguish in a literal or figurative sense. It can also be to sever, set apart, or show self to be marvelous.
KK “wonderful” = pele. From pele (a wonder, marvelous thing, or a miracle). This is to distinguish, accomplish, arise, make great.
LL “works” = maaseh. From asah (to do, make, accomplish, become). This is a word – any action whether positive or negative. It can also be a transaction, construction, activity, property, or something that is produced.
MM “I” = nephesh. Related to naphash (to refresh or be refreshed). This is soul, self, person, emotion. It is a breathing creature. Can also refer to appetites and desires.
NN “know” = yada. This is to know, acknowledge, advise, answer, be aware, be acquainted with. Properly, this is to figure something out by seeing. It includes ideas of observation, recognition, and care about something. It can be used causatively for instruction, designation, and punishment.
OO “very well” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.

Image credit: “Artist’s impression of a galaxy forming stars within powerful outflows of material blasted out from supermassive black holes at its core. Results from ESO’s Very Large Telescope are the first confirmed observations of stars forming in this kind of extreme environment. The discovery has many consequences for understanding galaxy properties and evolution.” by M. Kornmesser of the European Southern Observatory, 2017.

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