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Psalms 139:1-12

Context
Psalm 139 1 

For the music director, a psalm of David.

139:1 O Lord, you examine me 2  and know.

139:2 You know when I sit down and when I get up;

even from far away you understand my motives.

139:3 You carefully observe me when I travel or when I lie down to rest; 3 

you are aware of everything I do. 4 

139:4 Certainly 5  my tongue does not frame a word

without you, O Lord, being thoroughly aware of it. 6 

139:5 You squeeze me in from behind and in front;

you place your hand on me.

139:6 Your knowledge is beyond my comprehension;

it is so far beyond me, I am unable to fathom it. 7 

139:7 Where can I go to escape your spirit?

Where can I flee to escape your presence? 8 

139:8 If I were to ascend 9  to heaven, you would be there.

If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be. 10 

139:9 If I were to fly away 11  on the wings of the dawn, 12 

and settle down on the other side 13  of the sea,

139:10 even there your hand would guide me,

your right hand would grab hold of me.

139:11 If I were to say, “Certainly the darkness will cover me, 14 

and the light will turn to night all around me,” 15 

139:12 even the darkness is not too dark for you to see, 16 

and the night is as bright as 17  day;

darkness and light are the same to you. 18 

1 sn Psalm 139. The psalmist acknowledges that God, who created him, is aware of his every action and thought. He invites God to examine his motives, for he is confident they are pure.

2 tn The statement is understood as generalizing – the psalmist describes what God typically does.

3 tn Heb “my traveling and my lying down you measure.” The verb זָרָה (zarah, “to measure”) is probably here a denominative from זָרָת (zarat, “a span; a measure”), though some derive it from זָרָה (zarat, “to winnow; to sift”; see BDB 279-80 s.v. זָרָה).

4 tn Heb “all my ways.”

5 tn Or “for.”

6 tn Heb “look, O Lord, you know all of it.”

7 tn Heb “too amazing [is this] knowledge for me, it is elevated, I cannot attain to it.”

8 tn Heb “Where can I go from your spirit, and where from your face can I flee?” God’s “spirit” may refer here (1) to his presence (note the parallel term, “your face,” and see Ps 104:29-30, where God’s “face” is his presence and his “spirit” is the life-giving breath he imparts) or (2) to his personal Spirit (see Ps 51:10).

9 tn The Hebrew verb סָלַק (salaq, “to ascend”) occurs only here in the OT, but the word is well-attested in Aramaic literature from different time periods and displays a wide semantic range (see DNWSI 2:788-90).

10 tn Heb “look, you.”

11 tn Heb “rise up.”

12 sn On the wings of the dawn. This personification of the “dawn” may find its roots in mythological traditions about the god Shachar, whose birth is described in an Ugaritic myth (see G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends, 126) and who is mentioned in Isa 14:12 as the father of Helel.

13 tn Heb “at the end.”

14 tn The Hebrew verb שׁוּף (shuf), which means “to crush; to wound,” in Gen 3:15 and Job 9:17, is problematic here. For a discussion of attempts to relate the verb to Arabic roots, see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 251. Many emend the form to יְשׂוּכֵּנִי (yesukkeniy), from the root שׂכך (“to cover,” an alternate form of סכך), a reading assumed in the present translation.

15 tn Heb “and night, light, around me.”

16 tn The words “to see” are supplied in the translation for clarification and for stylistic reasons.

17 tn Heb “shines like.”

18 tn Heb “like darkness, like light.”



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