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139. Psalm 139

O Lord, thou hast searched me, and known me.

2Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.

3Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.

4For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether.

5Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain unto it.

7Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

8If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

9 If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

10Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

11If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me.

12Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.

13For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb.

14I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

15My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

16Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.

17How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

18 If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with thee.

19Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, O God: depart from me therefore, ye bloody men.

20For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.

21Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

22I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.

23Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:

24And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

1. O Jehovah! thou hast searched me David declares, in the outset of this Psalm, that he does not come before God with any idea of its being possible to succeed by dissimulation, as hypocrites will take advantage of secret refuges to prosecute sinful indulgences, but that he voluntarily lays bare his innermost heart for inspection, as one convinced of the impossibility of deceiving God. It is thine, he says, O God! to discover every secret thought, nor is there anything which can escape thy notice, He then insists upon particulars, to show that his whole life was known to God, who watched him in all his motions — when he slept, when he arose, or when he walked abroad. The word רע, rea, which we have rendered thought, signifies also a friend or companion, on which account some read — thou knowest what is nearest me afar off, a meaning more to the point than any other, if it could be supported by example. The reference would then be very appropriately to the fact that the most distant objects are contemplated as near by God. Some for afar off read beforehand, in which signification the Hebrew word is elsewhere taken, as if he had said — O Lord, every thought which I conceive in my heart is already known to thee beforehand. But I prefer the other meaning, That God is not confined to heaven, indulging in a state of repose, and indifferent to human concerns, according to the Epicurean idea, and that however far off we may be from him, he is never far off from us.

The verb זרה, zarah, means to winnow as well as to compass, so that we may very properly read the third verse — thou winnowest my ways, 201201     Piscator, Campensis, Pagninus, Luther, and our English Version, read “thou compassest.” This no doubt gives the meaning, of the original, though not the precise idea, which is noticed on the margin of our English Bible to be “winnowest.” The verb זרה, zarah, employed, signifies to disperse, to fan, to ventilate, to winnow; and here it denotes that as men separate the corn from the chaff, so God separates between, or investigates, the good and the bad in the daily conduct of men. Hence the Septuagint reads ἐξιχνίασας, “thou hast investigated.” Bishop Hare, who renders “thou dost compass,” supposes it to be a metaphor taken from hunting. “Winnowing,” says Archbishop Secker,” would sound uncouth But Mudge hath hit on the word siftest, which, though an idea somewhat different, suits very well.” a figurative expression to denote the bringing of anything which is unknown to light. The reader is left to his own option, for the other rendering which I have adopted is also.appropriate. There has been also a difference of opinion amongst interpreters as to the last clause of the verse. The verb סכן, sachan, in the Hiphil conjugation, as here, signifies to render successful, which has led some to think that David here thanks God for crowning his actions with success; but this is a sense which does not at all suit the scope of the Psalmist in the context, for he is not speaking of thanksgiving. Equally forced is the meaning given to the words by others — Thou hast made me to get acquainted or accustomed with my ways; 202202     “Fecisti assuescere vias meas.” — Lat. as if he praised God for being endued with wisdom and counsel. Though the verb be in the Hiphil, I have therefore felt no hesitation in assigning it a neuter signification — Lord, thou art accustomed to my ways, so that they are familiar to thee.

4. For there is not a word, etc. The words admit a double meaning. Accordingly some understand them to imply that God knows what, we are about to say before the words are formed on our tongue; others, that though we speak not a word, and try by silence to conceal our secret intentions, we cannot elude his notice. Either rendering amounts to the same thing, and it is of no consequence which we adopt. The idea meant to be conveyed is, that while the tongue is the index of thought to man, being the great medium of communication, God, who knows the heart, is independent of words. And use is made of the demonstrative particle lo! to indicate emphatically that the innermost recesses of our spirit stand present to his view.


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