Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Fourth Sunday of Advent B


A MaskilA of EthanB the Ezrahite.C

Notes on superscription

A “Makil” = 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 “Ethan” = Ethan. 8x in OT. From the same as ethan (root might mean to continue; mighty, strong, ever-flowing, enduring, or permanence). This is Ethan, a name meaning “permanence” or “permanent” or “perpetuity” or “perennial” or “firmness.” See
C “Ezrahite” = Ezrachi. 3x in OT. From zarach (to rise, shine, or dawn; can also describe symptoms of leprosy). This is Ezrahite, one whose ancestor is Zerah. It may mean “born of the native” or “son of dawn” or “sprung up” or “of the family of Zerah.” See

I will singD of your steadfast love,E O Lord,F forever;G

Notes on verse 1a

D “sing” = shir. From shir (song, singer). This is to sing. It could also refer to one who is singing or leading others in song.
E “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.
F “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.
G “forever” = olam. This is a long scope of time whether in the past (antiquity, ancient time) or in the future (eternal, everlasting).

    with my mouthH I will proclaimI your faithfulnessJ to all generations.K

Notes on verse 1b

H “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.
I “proclaim” = 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.
J “faithfulness” = emunah. From aman (to believe, endure, fulfill, confirm, support, be faithful, put one’s trust in, be steadfast. Figuratively, this is to be firm, steadfast, or faithful, trusting, believing, being permanent, morally solid). This word is literally firmness, but figuratively fidelity, faithfulness, honesty, responsibility, trust, truth, steadfastness. This word shares a root with the word “Amen.”
K “to all generations” = dor + dor. Literally, “from 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.

I declareL that your steadfast love is establishedM forever;
    your faithfulness is as firmN as the heavens.O

Notes on verse 2

L “declare” = amar. This is to speak, say, answer, command, promise, report.
M “established” = banah. This is to build, make, set up, restore, repair, or obtain children. It is to build literally or figuratively.
N “is as firm” = kun. Properly, this means in a perpendicular position. So, it is set up in a literal sense – establish, fix, fasten, prepare. In a figurative sense, it is certainty, to be firm, faithfulness, render sure or prosperous.
O “heavens” = 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.

You said, “I have madeP a covenantQ with my chosenR one;

Notes on verse 3a

P “made” = karat. This is to cut down, cut off, or make a covenant (idiom for making a covenant is “to cut a covenant”). It can also mean to destroy, fail, or consume.
Q “covenant” = berit. Perhaps from barah (to eat, choose, make clear); perhaps from bar (grain, wheat); from barar (to select, purify, cleanse, test, brighten, polish). This is a compact, covenant, alliance, treaty, or league.
R “chosen” = bachir. From bachar (to choose, appoint, try, excellent). This is chosen or choice. So, it implies excellence.

    I have swornS to my servantT David:U

Notes on verse 3b

S “sworn” = shaba. Perhaps from sheba (seven – the number of perfection/sacred fullness). This is to swear, curse, vow, make a covenant. Properly, it can mean to be complete. This is to seven oneself – as in affirming something so strongly it is as though it were said seven times.
T “servant” = ebed. From abad (to work, serve, compel; any kind of work; used causatively, can mean to enslave or keep in bondage). This is a servant, slave, or bondservant.
U “David” = David. From the same as dod (beloved, love, uncle); the root may mean to boil, which is used figuratively to describe love. So, this implies someone you love such as a friend, a lover, or a close family member like an uncle. David’s name likely means something like “beloved one.”

‘I will establishV your descendantsW foreverX

Notes on verse 4a

V “establish” = kun. Same as “is as firm” in v2. See note N above.
W “descendants” = zera. From zara (to sow or scatter seed; conceive or yield). This is seed or sowing. It can, thus, mean a fruit, plant, sowing time, child, offspring, or posterity.
X “forever” = ad + olam. Ad is from the same as ad (eternal, forever, old); from adah (to pass on, advance, decorate oneself).  This is as far as, until, before. Olam is the same as “forever” in v1. See note G above.

    and buildY your throneZ for all generations.’” SelahAA

Notes on verse 4b

Y “build” = banah. Same as “established” in v2. See note M above.
Z “throne” = kisse. From the same as kese (full moon); perhaps from kasah (to cover, conceal, overwhelm; to cover as clothes do or to hide a secret). This is throne – a seat that is covered or has a canopy. Thus, it is a seat that conveys authority.
AA “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.

19 Then you spokeBB in a visionCC to your faithful oneDD and said,EE

Notes on verse 19a

BB “spoke” = 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.
CC “vision” = chazon. From chazah (to gaze at – to see or behold; perceiving as a mental process or looking at something with pleasure; seeing a vision). This is a vision or a sight. It could be a dream, oracle, or revelation.
DD “faithful one” = chasid. Related to “steadfast love” in v1. From chasad (see note e above). This is faithful, kind, pious, merciful, or gracious. It can also refer to godly or pious people. This is where Chasidic Jews take their name from.
EE “said” = amar. Same as “declare” in v2. See note L above.

    “I have setFF the crownGG on one who is mighty;HH
    I have exaltedII one chosenJJ from the people.KK

Notes on verse 19b

FF “set” = shavah. This is to equalize, resemble, agree with, compare, adjust, compose, place, or yield.
GG “crown” = ezer. From azar (to help, protect, support, ally; properly, to surround so as to provide aid). This is help, aid, or helper. This word is used in Genesis 2:18 when God decides to make for Adam, “a helper as his partner.” If the same word can be used of God’s help (as in Psalm 121:1), then we should not downplay the significance of this formulation of “help.”
HH “mighty” = gibbor. From gabar (to be strong or mighty; to prevail or be insolent). This is strong, mighty, or powerful. This can imply a warrior, hero, or tyrant.
II “exalted” = rum. This is to rise or raise, to be high literally or figuratively. So it can also mean to exalt or extol.
JJ “chosen” = bachur. Related to “chosen” in v3. From bachar (see note R above). This is choice, chosen, selected. It is a youth or young man.
KK “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.

20 I have foundLL my servant David;
    with my holyMM oilNN I have anointedOO him;

Notes on verse 20

LL “found” = matsa. This is to find, catch or acquire. It can also mean to come forth or appear. Figuratively, this can mean to meet or be together with.
MM “holy” = qodesh. This is set apart and so sacred. God is different from us and so God is holy/set apart. Things we dedicate to God’s service are set apart for God and so they, too, are holy, etc.
NN “oil” = shemen. From shamen (to shine, which implies being oily, growing fat). This is fat, oil, grease, olive oil – often with perfume. Used figuratively for fertile, lavish, rich.
OO “anointed” = mashach. This is smear, paint, spread, or paint. It can also be to rub with oil or, otherwise stated, to anoint. This implies a consecration. This root verb is where the word “messiah” comes from.

21 my handPP shall always remainQQ with him;
    my armRR alsoSS shall strengthenTT him.

Notes on verse 21

PP “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.
QQ “remain” = kun. Same as “is as firm” in v2. See note N above.
RR “arm” = zeroa. Related to “descendants” in v4. Perhaps from zara (see note W above). This is the arm, shoulder, or foreleg of an animal. It is figuratively used for power, force, might, or help.
SS “also” = aph. This is also, furthermore, even.
TT “strengthen” = amets. This is to be strong, stout, alert, or bold, It can also mean harden, make firm, be courageous or mighty, fortify, or establish. It can refer to physical alertness or mental courage or steadfastness.

22 The enemyUU shall not outwitVV him;
    the wickedWW shall not humbleXX him.

Notes on verse 22

UU “enemy” = oyeb. From ayab (to hate or be hostile to). This is a foe or enemy as one that you are hostile to.
VV “outwit” = nasha. 5x in OT. Perhaps from nasha (to deceive, lend with interest, debtor, delude, seduce). This is to deceive, lend with interest, or debt.
WW “wicked” = ben + evel. Literally, “child of wickedness.” Ben is related to “established” in v2.From banah (see note M above). This is son, age, child. It is son in a literal or figurative sense. Evel is perhaps from aval (to deal unjustly, act in a wrongful way, a wrongdoer). This is injustice, wrong, moral evil, acts of violence, or unrighteousness.
XX “humble” = anah. This is to be occupied with. It can also be bowed down. It can refer to a sense of humility or to a sense of being browbeaten, oppressed, afflicted, or depressed. This can be literal or figurative – depressed in mood or circumstance.

23 I will crushYY his foesZZ beforeAAA him
    and strike downBBB those who hateCCC him.

Notes on verse 23

YY “crush” = kathath. 17x in OT. This is to crush into pieces, to beat with a hammer, smash, bruise.
ZZ “foes” = tsar. From tsarar (to bind, restrict, narrow, be cramped, an adversary). Properly, this is a narrow or constricted place. Figuratively, it can be trouble, a pebble, an enemy, anguish, or distress.
AAA “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.
BBB “strike down” = nagaph. This is to strike, beat, hurt, stumble, defeat, inflict disease.
CCC “hate” = sane. This is to hate, an enemy. It is a personal hatred and not an abstract one.

24 My faithfulnessDDD and steadfast love shall be with him,
    and in my nameEEE his hornFFF shall be exalted.

Notes on verse 24

DDD “faithfulness” = emunah. Same as “faithfulness” in v1. See note J above.
EEE “name” = shem. May be from sim (to put, place, set). This is name, fame, renown. A name was thought to indicate something essential about a person – something about their individuality. So, this word can also mean honor, authority, or character.
FFF “horn” = qeren. This is horn or hill. It can be a flask or cornet, ivory, altar corner, mountain peak, or figuratively power.

25 I will setGGG his hand on the seaHHH
    and his right handIII on the rivers.JJJ

Notes on verse 25

GGG “set” = sim. Related to “name” in v24. See note EEE above.
HHH “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.
III “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.
JJJ “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.

26 He shall cryKKK to me, ‘You are my Father,LLL
    my God,MMM and the RockNNN of my salvation!’OOO

Notes on verse 26

KKK “cry” = qara. This is to call or call out – to call someone by name. Also used more broadly for calling forth.
LLL “Father” = ab. This is father, chief, or ancestor. It is father in a literal or figurative sense.
MMM “God” = El.
NNN “Rock” = tsur. From tsur (to confine, cramp, or bind in a literal or figurative sense; to besiege, assault, or distress). This is rock, stone, cliff, boulder, rocky. It can also be a refuge, a way to refer to God.
OOO “salvation” = yeshuah. From yasha (to deliver, defend, help, preserve, rescue, be safe. Properly, to be open, wide or free, which implies being safe. Used causatively, it means to free). This is salvation, deliverance, health, victory, prosperity.

Image credit: “Yared An (sic) His Disciples Singing A Song In Front Of King Gebreme Skel . . .” Photo by A. Davey, 2007.

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