Psalm 147:12-20

Psalm 147:12-20
A Women’s Lectionary – Fifth Sunday of Easter


12 PraiseA the Lord,B O Jerusalem!C

Notes on verse 12a

A “praise” = shabach. 11x in OT. This is to glory, praise, triumph. It can also mean still or soothe. Properly, it is speaking to loudly or to calm through speech.
B “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.
C “Jerusalem” = Yerushalaim. From yarah (to throw, shoot, be stunned; to flow as water so figuratively to instruct or teach) + shalam (to make amends, to be complete or sound). This is Jerusalem, dwelling of peace.

    PraiseD your God,E O Zion!F

Notes on verse 12b

D “praise” = halal. This is to be clear – it originally referred to a sound, then a color. It was to shine and then make a show or boast then to rave. In a causative sense it came to mean celebrate, give glory, sing praise, or be worth of praise. Because of the celebratory nature of the word, it could also mean to give in marriage. This is where Hallelujah comes from.
E “God” = Elohim.
F “Zion” = Tsiyyon. Related to tsyiyyun (signpost, monument); from tsavah (to charge someone, to command, order); from the same as tsiyyah (dryness drought); from a root meaning parched as desert, dry land. Zion can refer to a mountain in Jerusalem as well as another name for Jerusalem itself or the people.

13 For he strengthensG the barsH of your gates;I
    he blessesJ your childrenK withinL you.

Notes on verse 13

G “strengthens” = chazaq. This is to strengthen, seize, be courageous, repair, bind, heal, conquer, harden.
H “bars” = beriach. From barach (to flee, drive away, hurry, to bolt). This is a bar or a bolt. It can also be used for a fugitive.
I “gates” = shaar. May be related to sha’ar (to calculate or reckon; may come from a root that means to open up or split). This is a gate, door, or other opening like a port.
J “blesses” = barak. This is to kneel, to bless. It is blessing God as part of worship and adoration or blessing humans to help them. It can be used as a euphemism to say curse God.
K “children” = ben. From banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
L “within” = qereb. Perhaps from qarab (to come near or approach). This is among, in the midst, before, the center It is the inward part, whether literal or figurative. It can also be used for the heart, the site of thoughts and feelings. This word is also used as a technical term for the entrails of the animals who are sacrificed.

14 He grantsM peaceN within your borders;O
    he fillsP you with the finestQ of wheat.R

Notes on verse 14

M “grants” = sim. This is to put or place in a literal or figurative sense. It can be appoint, care, change, make, and may other things.
N “peace” = shalom. Related to “Jerusalem” in v12. From shalam (see note C above). This is completeness, soundness, welfare, favor, friend, good health. It is to be safe and figuratively well, happy, at peace, friendly. Abstractly, it includes the ideas of welfare and prosperity (not in excessive wealth, but in having enough).
O “borders” = gebul. Perhaps from gabal (to border, twist like rope). This is boundary, limit, coast, space. Properly, it is a line that is twisted, which implies a boundary and, by extension, the boundaries of a territory or other enclosed space.
P “fills” = saba. To be satisfied or full in a literal or figurative sense. Also, to have plenty of.
Q “finest” = cheleb. This is fat, finest, marrow. It is fat in a literal or figurative sense. It refers to the richest or best part.
R “wheat” = chittah. Perhaps from chanat (to spice, ripen, embalm). This is wheat, referring to the plant or its product.

15 He sends outS his commandT to the earth;U
    his wordV runsW swiftly.X

Notes on verse 15

S “sends out” = shalach. This is to send out, away, send for, forsake. It can also mean to divorce or set a slave free.
T “command” = imrah. From emer (speech, thing, utterance, promise, argument, command); from amar (to speak, say, answer, command, promise, report). This is any kind of utterance, a word or commandment.
U “earth” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
V “word” = dabar. From dabar (to speak, declare, discuss). This is speech, a word, a matter, an affair, charge, command, message, promise, purpose, report, request. It is a word, which implies things that are spoken of in a wide sense.
W “runs” = ruts. This is to run or rush, divide quickly, bring swiftly. It can also refer to a footman or guard.
X “swiftly” = meherah. From mahar (being liquid, which implies flowing; hurrying forward, whether in a positive or negative sense). This is speed, quickly, shortly, promptly.

16 He givesY snowZ like wool;AA
    he scattersBB frostCC like ashes.DD

Notes on verse 16

Y “gives” = natan. This is to give, put, set, offer. It is to give literally or figuratively.
Z “snow” = sheleg. 19x in OT. Perhaps from shalag (to snow, to be white). This is snow or snowy.
AA “wool” = tsemer. 16x in OT. This is wool or shaggy thing.
BB “scatters” = pazar. 10x in OT. This is to scatter or disperse – whether in a positive sense of sharing abundance or negatively as scattering through force.
CC “frost” = kphowr. 12x in OT. From kaphar (to appease, cover, pacify, cancel). This is a cover, which could imply a basin or goblet or a frost that covers the ground.
DD “ashes” = epher. Root may mean to strew. This is ashes or dust.

17 He hurls downEE hailFF like crumbsGG
    who can standHH beforeII his cold?JJ

Notes on verse 17

EE “hurls down” = shalak. This is to throw, fling, or hurl. It can also be to throw away in a literal or figurative sense.
FF “hail” = qerach. 7x in OT. Perhaps from qarach (to shave bald). This is ice, frost, or crystal. It could be ice as smooth like baldness is smooth. It can also be hail or, since they look similar, crystal rocks.
GG “crumbs” = path. 15x in OT. From pathath (to crumble, open, break). This is a piece, morsel, or fragment.
HH “stand” = amad. This is to stand up in a literal or figurative sense. So it can be establish, continue, endure, take a stand, act, be a servant, stand still, remain, stand against an enemy.
II “before” = 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.
JJ “cold” = qarah. 5x in OT. From qar (cold, quiet, excellent); from qarar (being cold, remaining fresh). This is cold or coolness.

18 He sends out his word, and meltsKK them;
    he makes his windLL blow,MM and the watersNN flow.OO

Notes on verse 18

KK “melts” = masah. 4x in OT. This is to melt, become liquid, consume. Figuratively, it can also be melt from fear.
LL “wind” = 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.
MM “makes…blow” = nashab. 3x in OT. This is to blow or disperse.
NN “waters” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
OO “flow” = nazal. 16x in OT. This is to drip or flow, pour down, flood, distill, or melt.

19 He declaresPP his word to Jacob,QQ
    his statutesRR and ordinancesSS to Israel.TT

Notes on verse 19

PP “declares” = nagad. This is to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain.
QQ “Jacob” = Yaaqob. From the same as aqeb (heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, usurper). This is Isaac’s son and his descendants. The name means heel-catcher or supplanter.
RR “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.
SS “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.
TT “Israel” = Yisrael. Related to “God” in v12. From sarah (to persist, exert oneself, contend, persevere, wrestle, prevail) + el (see note E above). This is Israel, meaning God strives or one who strives with God; new name for Jacob and for his offspring. This refers to the people and to the land.

20 He has not dealtUU thusVV with anyWW other nation;XX

Notes on verse 20a

UU “dealt” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
VV “thus” = ken. Perhaps from kun (properly, in a perpendicular position; literally, to establish, fix, fasten, prepare; figuratively, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous). This is to set upright. Generally used figuratively to mean thus, so, afterwards, rightly so.
WW “any” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
XX “nation” = goy. From the same root as gevah (the back, person, or body); related to gev (among); related to gaah (to rise up). This is nation or people. Often used to refer to Gentiles or foreign nations. It can also be used figuratively for a group of animals. This is where the Yiddish “goy” comes from.

    they do notYY knowZZ his ordinances.
PraiseAAA the Lord!BBB

Notes on verse 20b

YY “not” = 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.
ZZ “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.
AAA “praise” = halal. Same as “praise” in v12. See note D above.
BBB “Lord” = Yah. Related to “Lord” in v12. From YHVH (see note B above). This is Lord or God – a  shortened form of God’s most holy name.

Image credit: “Snow in Jerusalem Forest” by Dror Feitelson, 2012.

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