Psalm 77:1-12, 19-20

Psalm 77:1-12, 19-20
A Women’s Lectionary – Proper 10A


To the leader:A according to Jeduthun.B Of Asaph.C A Psalm.D

Notes on superscript

A “leader” = natsach. Properly, something that glitters from a distance. So, something that stands out, excels, has status/standing (such as a chief musician or superintendent of Temple services). This can also mean to be permanent or enduring.
B “Jeduthun” = Yeduthun. 17x in OT. From yadah (to throw one’s hands into the air in a gesture of praise, to give thanks, or make a confession); from yad (hand, ability, power; hand in a literal sense; what one can do or the means by which one does it). This is Jeduthun or Yeduthun, meaning “laudatory.” He was a temple choir leader.
C “Asaph” = Asaph. From asaph (to gather, assemble, bring, take away, destroy, or remove). This is Asaph, meaning “gatherer” or “collector.” It is a personal name.
D “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.

I cryE aloudF to God,G
    aloud to God, that he may hearH me.

Notes on verse 1

E “cry” = tsaaq. This is to cry out or call together, to shriek. It can mean, by implication, calling for an assembly.
F “aloud” = qol. Literally, “with my voice.” This is a sound, used often for human voices. Also used when God speaks or angels, animals or instruments. It can be a cry or a noise, thunder or earthquakes and so on.
G “God” = Elohim.
H “hear” = azan. Perhaps from ozen (ear, hearing, audience, show; properly, broadness – applied to its ear in reference to its shape). Properly, this is to expand or broaden one’s ear i.e. listen intently, pay attention, heed.

In the dayI of my troubleJ I seekK the Lord;L

Notes on verse 2a

I “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.
J “trouble” = tsarah. From tsar (properly, a narrow or constricted place; figuratively, trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress); from tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). This is tightness, distress, affliction, trouble, or adversary.
K “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.
L “Lord” = Adonai. From adon (lord, master, owner); root means to rule or be sovereign. This is the actual Hebrew word for Lord used (in a different form) of humans and (in the present form) of God. It means someone who is in control.

    in the nightM my handN is stretched outO without wearying;P
    my soulQ refuses to be comforted.R

Notes on verse 2b

M “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.
N “hand” = yad. Related to “Jeduthun” in superscript. See note B above.
O “stretched out” = nagar. 10x in OT. This is to pour, flow away, spill, run, deliver over, or stretch.
P “wearying” = pug. 4x in OT. This is to be faint, sluggish, grow numb, be spent.
Q “soul” = 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.
R “comforted” = nacham. Properly, this is a strong breath or a sigh. This can be to be sorry, to pity, console. Comfort, or repent. But, one can also comfort oneself with less righteous thoughts, so this can also mean to avenge oneself.

I thinkS of God, and I moan;T
    I meditate,U and my spiritV faints.W SelahX

Notes on verse 3

S “think” = zakar. This is to remember, to mark something so that it can be recalled, to be mindful of, to mention.
T “moan” = hamah. This is to growl or roar, be disturbed, mourn, yearn. It is being noisy so it can imply tumult, rage, war.
U “meditate” = siach. From siach (musing, meditation, communication, babbling, prayer, contemplation). This is to muse, meditate, complain, sing, sigh, speak, or utter.
V “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.
W “faints” = ataph. 16x in OT. This is to turn, faint, hide, be overwhelmed, cover, fail.
X “selah” = selah. From salal (to lift up, build, pile, extol, exalt; can also be used for opposing as a dam holds back water). This is to lift up or exalt. Also, “selah” in the psalms where its precise meaning is uncertain. It could be a pause in the music, a moment of silence. It could signal a change in the service or mean something akin to amen.

You keep my eyelidsY from closing;Z
    I am so troubledAA that I cannot speak.BB

Notes on verse 4

Y “eyelids” = shemurah+ ayin. Shemurah is 1x in OT. From shamar (to keep, watch, or preserve; to guard something or to protect it as a thorny hedge protects something). This is something that guards. It could be an eyelid or waking. Ayin is eye in a literal or figurative sense so eye, appearance, favor, or a fountain (the eye of the landscape).
Z “keep…from closing” = achaz. This is to grasp, catch, seize, take and hold in possession. It can also be to be afraid or hold back.
AA “am so troubled” = paam. 5x in OT– including Pharaoh’s reaction to his dream in Genesis 41 & Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to his dream in Daniel 2. This is to move, trouble, to tap in a regular rhythm, to agitate.
BB “speak” = dabar. This is generally to speak, answer, declare, or command. It might mean to arrange and so to speak in a figurative sense as arranging words.

I considerCC the days of oldDD
    and remember the yearsEE of long ago.FF

Notes on verse 5

CC “consider” = chashab. This is properly to braid or interpenetrate. Literally it is to create or to wear. Figuratively, it can mean plotting – generally in a negative sense. More broadly, this can also mean think, consider, or make account of.
DD “old” = qedem. Perhaps from qadam (to come in front or be in front; to meet, anticipate, confront, receive, or rise; sometimes to meet for help). This is front, formerly, before, east, eternal, everlasting, antiquity.
EE “years” = shanah. From shana (to change). This is a year, age, yearly.
FF “long ago” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

I communeGG with my heartHH in the night;
    I meditate and searchII my spirit:

Notes on verse 6

GG “commune” = zakar + neginah. Literally, “I remember my song.” Zakar is the same as “think” in v3. See note S above. Neginah is 13x in OT. From nagan (to strike a stringed instrument, to pluck or play it). This is music, a song, a taunt, or a stringed instrument. It can also be a poem given a musical setting.
HH “heart” = lebab. 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.
II “search” = chaphas. This is to seek. In a causative sense, it can mean to hide or disguise oneself.

“Will the Lord spurnJJ foreverKK
    and never againLL be favorable?MM

Notes on verse 7

JJ “spurn” = zanach. This is to cast aside, reject, remove, forsake.
KK “forever” = olam. Same as “long ago” in v5. See note FF above.
LL “again” = yasaph. This is to add, increase, continue, exceed.
MM “be favorable” = ratsah. This is to be pleased with, delight, take pleasure in, or accept with favor. It can mean to approve or consent regarding something. It can also be used specifically of satisfying debts or being pardoned.

Has his steadfast loveNN ceasedOO forever?PP

Notes on verse 8a

NN “steadfast love” = 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.
OO “ceased” = aphes. 5x in OT. This is to finish, fail, stop, come to nothing, disappear.
PP “forever” = netsach. Related to “leader” in superscript. From natsach (see note A above). This is properly a goal or destination as the bright focus to which one journeys. It can be splendor, truthfulness, or confidence. Most often, it refers to everlastingness, always, continually.

    Are his promisesQQ at an endRR for all time?SS

Notes on verse 8b

QQ “promises” = omer. 6x in OT. From emer (speech, thing, utterance, promise, argument, command); from amar (to speak, say, answer, command, promise, report). This is speech, a word, a matter, or a promise.
RR “are…at an end” = gamar. 5x in OT. This is to end, perfect, or accomplish. It could be end as to complete or end as a failure.
SS “for all time” = dor + dor. Literally, “to generation and generation.” From dur (to move in a circle, which implies living somewhere or remaining there; it can also be the sense of piling or heaping up). This is a revolution of time, which is to say, an age or generation. It can also be a dwelling or one’s posterity.

Has GodTT forgottenUU to be gracious?VV
    Has he in angerWW shut upXX his compassion?”YY Selah

Notes on verse 9

TT “God” = El. Related to “God” in v1. See note G above.
UU “forgotten” = shakach. This is to forget because of not remembering something or not paying attention to it. It can also mean to mislay.
VV “be gracious” = channot. 1x in OT. From chanan (beseech, show favor, be gracious; properly, to bend in kindness to someone with less status). This is supplication, be gracious.
WW “anger” = aph. From anaph (to be angry; properly, breathing hard as a signifier of being enraged). This properly refers to the nose or nostril and by extension the face. It can specifically refer to anger or wrath as one breathes hard and nostrils flare in times of great anger.
XX “shut up” = qaphats. 7x in OT. This is to close, shut, contract. It can be used of hand or mouth, withdrawing compassion, or the way one contracts in death. It can also mean leaping as the body contracts over and over.
YY “compassion” = racham. From the same as rechem (womb); from racham (to love, have compassion, have mercy); from racham (compassion, tender love, womb, compassion; the womb as that which cherishes the fetus). This is compassion, mercy, or tender love.

10 And I say,ZZ “It is my griefAAA
    that the right handBBB of the Most HighCCC has changed.”DDD

Notes on verse 10

ZZ “say” = amar. Related to “promises” in v8. See note QQ above.
AAA “grief” = chalah. Properly, this is to be worn; hence, being weak, sick, or afflicted. It can also mean to grieve or, positively, to flatter or entreat.
BBB “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.
CCC “Most High” = Elyon. From alah (to go up, ascend, be high, be a priority; to arise in a literal or figurative sense). This is most high, upper. It refers to elevation – so, lofty.
DDD “changed” = shanah. Same as “years” in v5. See note EE above.

11 I will call to mindEEE the deedsFFF of the Lord;GGG
    I will rememberHHH your wondersIII of old.

Notes on verse 11

EEE “call to mind” = zakar. Same as “think” in v3. See note S above.
FFF “deeds” = maalal. From alal (to affect, do, practice, mock, overdo, glean, abuse, pain). This is some kind of deed, action, invention or practice whether good or bad.
GGG “Lord” = Yah. From YHVH (proper name of the God of Israel; God, Lord; the self-existent or eternal one); from havah (to become) or hayah (to be, become, happen)}. This is Lord or God – a shortened form of God’s most holy name.
HHH “remember” = zakar. Same as “think” in v3. See note S above.
III “wonders” = pele. 13x in OT. This is a wonder, marvelous thing, or a miracle.

12 I will meditateJJJ on allKKK your workLLL
    and museMMM on your mighty deeds.NNN

Notes on verse 12

JJJ “meditate” = hagah. This is to speak, declare, make a sound, imagine, or mutter. It could be a murmur, moan, or growl, whether from delight or anger. It can also mean to study, ponder, or meditate.
KKK “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
LLL “work” = poal. From paal (to do, make, work, or accomplish; generally refers to regularly repeated or systematic action – to practice). This is an action or deed, conduct. It is the act of working or the work itself. It can also be wages or maker.
MMM “muse” = siach. Same as “meditate” in v3. See note U above.
NNN “mighty deeds” = alilah. Related to “deeds” in v11. From alal (see note FFF above). This is a deed or action – something that causes an effect. It could be a wanton or shameful deed or an opportunity.

19 Your wayOOO was through the sea,PPP
    your pathQQQ through the mightyRRR waters,SSS
    yet your footprintsTTT were unseen.UUU

Notes on verse 19

OOO “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.
PPP “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.
QQQ “path” = shebil. 2x in OT. From the same as shobel (the train of a skirt that flows after a woman). This is a path or track as something that flows.
RRR “mighty” = rab. From rabab (increasing in any aspect whether quantity, authority, size, quality, greatness, etc.). This is abundance, many, elder, exceedingly, great. It refers to abundance of amount, rank, or status.
SSS “waters” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
TTT “footprints” = aqeb. 13x in OT. This is heel, hind part, hoof, rear guard of an army, one who lies in wait, or usurper.
UUU “unseen” = lo + yada. Yada 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.

20 You ledVVV your peopleWWW like a flockXXX
    by the hand of MosesYYY and Aaron.ZZZ

Notes on verse 20

VVV “led” = 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.”
WWW “people” = 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.
XXX “flock” = tson. This is a flock of sheep and goats.
YYY “Moses” = Mosheh. From mashah (to pull out in a literal or figurative sense, to draw out) OR from Egyptian mes or mesu (child, son i.e. child of…). This is Moses – the one drawn out from the water, which is to say, rescued. If derived from the Egyptian, his name would share a root with Rameses and Thutmose.
ZZZ “Aaron” = Aharon. Derivation uncertain. May mean “bearer of martyrs” OR be related to Ancient Egyptian ꜥḥꜣ rw (warrior lion) OR elevated, exalted, high mountain. This is Aaron. See

Image credit: “Crossing of Red Sea” by Hilda Katz.

You May Also Like

Leave a Reply