Psalm 139:13-18

Psalm 139:13-18
Narrative Lectionary 423


13 For it was you who formedA my inward parts;B
    you knit me togetherC in my mother’sD womb.E

Notes on verse 13

A “formed” = qanah. This is to acquire, create, purchase, own. Its root may mean to smith or to produce.
B “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.
C “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.
D “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.
E “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 praiseF you, for I am fearfullyG and wonderfully made.H
    WonderfulI are your works;J

Notes on verse 14a

F “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.
G “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.
H “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.
I “wonderful” = pele. From pele (a wonder, marvelous thing, or a miracle). This is to distinguish, accomplish, arise, make great.
J “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.

that IK knowL very well.M

Notes on verse 14b

K “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.
L “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.
M “very well” = meod. Perhaps from the same as uwd (firebrand, a poker). This is very, greatly, exceedingly. It can also mean vehemence, force, abundance.

15     My frameN was not hiddenO from you,
when I was being madeP in secret,Q
    intricately wovenR in the depthsS of the earth.T

Notes on verse 15

N “frame” = otsem. 3x in OT. From atsam (vast, numerous, strong; to close one’s eyes, to make powerful; to break bones). This is bones, strength, power, body, substance, frame.
O “hidden” = kachad. This is to hide or conceal or destroy. It can also refer to doing secret actions or secret speech.
P “made” = asah. Related to “works” in v14. See note J above.
Q “secret” = sether. From sathar (hide, conceal, or be absent; hiding because something is covered – used in a literal or figurative sense). This is covering, shelter, protection, hiding place. It can be hidden by a mountain, by clouds, in the womb, in a matter of secrecy, through slander, or of nations.
R “intricately woven” = raqam. 9x in OT– 8x in Exodus of materials for the tabernacle and priesthood & 1x in Psalm 139:15 of being “intricately woven in the depths of the earth.” This is to embroider, weave, vary color, fabricate.
S “depths” = tachti. 19x in OT. From tachat (underneath, below, the bottom, instead of). This is beneath, the depths, foot of a mountain, a pit, the womb.
T “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.

16 Your eyesU beheldV my unformedW substance.
In your bookX were writtenY

Notes on verse 16a

U “eyes” = ayin. This is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
V “beheld” = raah. This is to see in a literal or figurative sense so stare, advise, think, view.
W “unformed” = golem. 1x in OT. From galam (to wrap or fold together). This is an unformed mass or substance. This is also the word that the mythical creature “golem” gets its name from (but not the Tolkien character Gollum).
X “book” = sepher. Perhaps from saphar (to tally or record something; to enumerate, recount, number, celebrate, or declare). This can be writing itself or something that is written like a document, book, letter, evidence, bill, scroll, or register.
Y “written” = kathab. This is to inscribe, write, record, or decree.

    allZ the daysAA that were formedBB for me,
    when noneCC of them as yet existed.

Notes on verse 16b

Z “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
AA “days” = 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.
BB “formed” = yatsar. Perhaps related to yatsar (to be narrow, distressed, or vexed); perhaps related to tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is to fashion or form, perhaps by squeezing something into a shape or form. Particularly, it is to create as a potter does. Figuratively, it is to determine.
CC “none” = lo + echad. Echad is perhaps from achad (to unify, continue on a path; figuratively, to gather one’s thoughts). This is the number one, first, united. It can also be alone, altogether, a certain, a few.

17 How weightyDD to me are your thoughts,EE O God!FF
    How vastGG is the sumHH of them!

Notes on verse 17

DD “weighty” = yaqar. 11x in OT. This is to be precious, costly, rare, valued; properly, to be heavy; figuratively, valuable or inhibit.
EE “thoughts” = rea. 2x in OT– both in Psalm 139. Perhaps from ra’ah (to tend a flock, pasture, or graze; to rule or to associate with someone; figuratively, ruler or teacher). This is a thought, purpose, or goal.
FF “God” = El.
GG “vast” = atsam. Related to “frame” in v15. See note N above.
HH “sum” = rosh. This may come a word that means to shake. It is the head, captain, or chief. It can also be excellent or the forefront. It can be first in position or in statue or in time (i.e. the beginning).

18 I try to countII them—they are moreJJ than the sand;KK
    I come to the endLL—I am still with you.

Notes on verse 18

II “try to count” = saphar. Related to “book” in v16. See note X above.
JJ “are more” = rabah. This is increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.
KK “sand” = chol. From chul (whirling around so dancing as in a circle or writhing in pain; used particularly for the pain of childbirth or from writhing due to fear; can also be falling in pain or waiting). This is sand, perhaps because of its roundness or the way that the grains can whirl.
LL “come to the end” = quts. Related to qayits (fruit, harvest, dry season); from quts (summer, clip off). This is arise or watch. It is to awake in a literal or figurative sense.

Image credit: “Universal Human” by Brian Gianelli. Photo by Tom Check, 2008.

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