Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
A “Maskil” = Maskiyl. 13x in OT. From sakal (to consider or be prudent; to instruct, be an expert; dealing prudently, which implies success and prospering; can mean laying cross-wise). This is maskil or maschil. It is a poem used for instruction.
B “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.
C “give ear” = 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.
D “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.
E “teaching” = 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.
F “incline” = natah. This is to stretch or spread out, to extend, or bend. In can also imply moral deflection.
G “ears” = ozen. Related to “give ear” in v1. See note C above.
H “words” = emer. From amar (to say, answer, challenge). This is something that is said – a word, saying, speech.
I “mouth” = peh. This is mouth in a literal or figurative sense. So, more literally, it can be beak or jaws. More figuratively, it refers to speech, commands, or promises.
J “open” = pathach. This is to open wide in a literal or figurative sense. So, it is open, draw out, let something go free, break forth. It can also mean to plow, engrave, or carve.
K “parable” = mashal. From mashal (to compare, speak in a proverb or riddle – to speak in allegory or liken). This is proverb, parable, taunt, discourse, maxim, adage, poem.
L “utter” = naba. 11x in OT. This is to spring up, flow, gush, or spout. It can also mean to belch as in emitting a bad smell. Figuratively, it can mean to speak, whether positively or negatively.
M “dark sayings” = chidah. 17x in OT– including the riddle of Samson’s marriage in Judges 14 and “hard questions” posed by the Queen of Sheba in 1 Kings 10. Perhaps from chud (to tie a knot, offer a riddle). This is a riddle, proverb, question, puzzle, intrigue, dark saying.
N “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.
O “heard” = shama. This is to hear, call, consent, or consider. It implies listening intelligently, giving attention, and, because of these two factors, obedience and action are often implied.
P “known” = 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.
Q “ancestors” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
R “told” = saphar. From sepher (writing, document, book, evidence). This is properly to tally or record something. It can be enumerate, recount, number, celebrate, or declare.
S “hide” = kachad. This is to hide or conceal or destroy. It can also refer to doing secret actions or secret speech.
T “children” = ben. From banah (to build or obtain children). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense.
U “coming” = acharon. From achar (to be behind, delay, be late, procrastinate, continue). This is end, last, coming behind, to loiter, later. It can also refer to the west.
V “generation” = dor. 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.
W “glorious deeds” = tehillah. From halal (to praise, be boastful). This is praise or a song of praise. It is to offer God a hymn, to boast in God. This shares a root with “hallelujah.”
X “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.
Y “might” = ezuz. 3x in OT. From azaz (to be strong, become fixed, be bold, prevail, be impudent; it means to be stout literally or figuratively. A Late Hebrew word). This is strength, power, forcibleness.
Z “wonders” = pala. From pele (wonder, miracle, wonderful, marvelous thing). This is to be extraordinary, to arise, to be great or accomplish.
AA “done” = asah. This is to make, do, act, appoint, become in many senses.
BB “in the sight of” = neged. From nagad (to declare, make conspicuous, stand in front, manifest, predict, explain). This is in front of, opposite to. It can refer to a counterpart or partner, one corresponding to or in the sight of.
CC “worked” = asah. Same as “done” in v4. See note AA above.
DD “marvels” = pele. Related to “wonders” in v4. 13x in OT. See note Z above.
EE “land” = erets. Root may mean to be firm. This is earth, ground, field land, or country.
FF “Egypt” = Mitsrayim. Perhaps from matsor (besieged or fortified place, bulwark, entrenchment; something hemmed in; a siege or distress or fastness); from tsur (to confine, besiege, to cramp). This is Egypt.
GG “fields” = sadeh. This is literally field, ground, soil, or land. It can be used to mean wild like a wild animal.
HH “Zoan” = Tsoan. 7x in OT. From tsaan (to lay packs on animals and so to wander or travel) OR from Egyptian (low region) OR Ancient Egyptian d’n.t (Tanis). This is Zoan or Tsoan, a location in Egypt. It may mean, “low region,” “itinerant,” or “moving about.” It See https://www.abarim-publications.com/Meaning/Zoan.html & https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoan
II “divided” = baqa. This is to break open, breach, divide, rip, shake, tear. It can also mean dash into pieces or being ready to burst.
JJ “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.
KK “pass through” = abar. This is to pass over or cross over. It is used for transitions, whether literal or figurative. It can also mean to escape, alienate, or fail. This is the root verb from which “Hebrew” is drawn.
LL “waters” = mayim. This is water, waters, or waterway in a general sense. Figuratively, it can also mean juice, urine, or semen.
MM “stand” = natsab. This is to station, appoint, establish, take a stand.
NN “heap” = ned. 6x in OT. From nud (to nod, waver, wander, flee, show grief, disappear; nodding the head as a sign of sympathy or consolation; tossing one’s head to show contempt or to taunt). This is a heap or mound – it can imply a wave.
OO “daytime” = yomam. From yom (day, age, daily, each, today). Root may mean to be hot. So, this is day as the hours that are hot. This can be daytime in a literal or figurative sense.
PP “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.”
QQ “cloud” = anan. May be from anan (cover, cloud over; figuratively, acting in a secret way, practicing magic or soothsaying). This is a cloud as something that covers the sky.
RR “all” = kol. From kalal (to complete). This is all or every.
SS “night” = layil. Properly, this refers to light twisting away. It is used for night or midnight. Figuratively, this can mean adversity.
TT “fiery” = esh. This is fire, burning, flaming, hot. It is fire in a literal or figurative sense.
UU “light” = 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.
VV “split” = baqa. Same as “divided” in v13. See note II above.
WW “rocks” = tsur. Related to “Egypt” in v12. From tsur (see note FF above). This is rock, stone, cliff, boulder, rocky. It can also be a refuge, a way to refer to God.
XX “wilderness” = midbar. From dabar (to speak, command, declare). This is mouth or speech. It can also be desert or wilderness. Additionally, it can be used for a pasture to which one drives cattle.
YY “gave…drink” = shaqah. This is to give water to, to cause to drink – to irrigate, drown. It can be used for watering plants or giving water to flocks.
ZZ “abundantly” = 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.
AAA “deep” = tehom. Perhaps from hum (to roar, murmur, cause an uproar, agitate; to defeat in battle, destroy). This is the deep or the abyss. Either understood as a formless empty place of nothingness or as a place of confusion filled with water – the deep the feeds the waters of the earth.
BBB “streams” = nazal. 16x in OT. This is to drip or flow, pour down, flood, distill, or melt.
CCC “come out” = yatsa. This is to go or come out, bring forth, appear. It is to go out in a literal or figurative sense.
DDD “rock” = sela. Root may mean being lofty. This is a rock, cliff, crag, mountain. It could be used figuratively for obstinance or to show God as a refuge. It can also more generally mean fortress or stronghold.
EEE “flow down” = yarad. This is to go down, descend; going down in a literal or figurative sense. It can be going to the shore or a boundary, bringing down an enemy.
FFF “rivers” = nahar. From nahar (to flow, sparkle, be cheerful). This is a stream, river, or flood. Particularly used for the Nile or Euphrates. Figuratively, this can mean prosperity.
Image credit: “Fundamental Need” by Wasfi Akab, 2011.