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Psalm 139

The Inescapable God

To the leader. Of David. A Psalm.


O L ord, you have searched me and known me.


You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from far away.


You search out my path and my lying down,

and are acquainted with all my ways.


Even before a word is on my tongue,

O L ord, you know it completely.


You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.


Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain it.



Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?


If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.


If I take the wings of the morning

and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,


even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me fast.


If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light around me become night,”


even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day,

for darkness is as light to you.



For it was you who formed my inward parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.


I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

Wonderful are your works;

that I know very well.


My frame was not hidden from you,

when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.


Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.

In your book were written

all the days that were formed for me,

when none of them as yet existed.


How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!


I try to count them—they are more than the sand;

I come to the end—I am still with you.



O that you would kill the wicked, O God,

and that the bloodthirsty would depart from me—


those who speak of you maliciously,

and lift themselves up against you for evil!


Do I not hate those who hate you, O L ord?

And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?


I hate them with perfect hatred;

I count them my enemies.


Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my thoughts.


See if there is any wicked way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

17. How precious also are thy thoughts unto me It is the same Hebrew word, רעה, reah, which is used here as in the second verse, and means thought, not companion or friend, as many have rendered it, after the Chaldee translator, under the idea that the Psalmist is already condescending upon the distinction between the righteous and the wicked. The context requires that he should still be considered as speaking of the matchless excellence of divine providence. He therefore repeats — and not without reason — what he had said before; for we apparently neglect or underestimate the singular proofs of the deep wisdom of God, exhibited in man’s creation, and the whole superintendence and government of his life. Some read — How rare are thy thoughts; but this only darkens the meaning. I grant we find that word made use of in the Sacred History, (1 Samuel 3:1,) where the oracles of the Lord are said to have been rare, in the time of Eli. But it also means precious, and it is enough that we retain the sense which is free from all ambiguity. He applies the term to God’s thoughts, as not lying within the compass of man’s judgment. To the same effect is what he adds that the sums or aggregates of them were great and mighty; that is, sufficient to overwhelm the minds of men. The exclamation made by the Psalmist suggests to us that were men not so dull of apprehension, or rather so senseless, they would be struck by the mysterious ways of God, and would humbly and tremblingly sist themselves before his tribunal, instead of presumptuously thinking that they could evade it. The same truth is set forth in the next verse, that if any should attempt to number the hidden judgments or counsels of God, their immensity is more than the sands of the sea. Our capacities conseqently could not comprehend the most infinitesimal part of them. As to what follows — I have a waked, and am still with, thee, interpreters have rendered the words differently; but I have no doubt of the meaning simply being that David found new occasion, every time he awoke from sleep, for meditating upon the extraordinary wisdom of God. When he speaks of rising, we are not to suppose he refers to one day, but agreeably to what he had said already of his thoughts being absorbed in the incomprehensible greatness of divine wisdom, he adds that every time he awoke he discovered fresh matter for admiration. We are thus put in possession of the true meaning of David, to the effect that God’s providential government of the world is such that nothing can escape him, not even the profoundest thoughts. And although many precipitate themselves in an infatuated manner into all excess of crime, under the idea that God will never discover them, it is in vain that they resort to hiding-places, from which, however reluctantly, they must be dragged to light. The truth is one which we would do well to consider more than we do, for while we may cast a glance at our hands and our feet, and occasionally survey the elegance of our shape with complacency, there is scarcely one in a hundred who thinks of his Maker. Or if any recognize their life as coming from God, there is none at least who rises to the great truth that he who formed the ear, and the eye, and the understanding heart, himself hears, and sees, and knows everything.

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