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Psalms 139:14-16

Context

139:14 I will give you thanks because your deeds are awesome and amazing. 1 

You knew me thoroughly; 2 

139:15 my bones were not hidden from you,

when 3  I was made in secret

and sewed together in the depths of the earth. 4 

139:16 Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. 5 

All the days ordained for me

were recorded in your scroll

before one of them came into existence. 6 

1 tc Heb “because awesome things, I am distinct, amazing [are] your works.” The text as it stands is syntactically problematic and makes little, if any, sense. The Niphal of פָּלָה (pala’) occurs elsewhere only in Exod 33:16. Many take the form from פָלָא (pala’; see GKC 216 §75.qq), which in the Niphal perfect means “to be amazing” (see 2 Sam 1:26; Ps 118:23; Prov 30:18). Some, following the LXX and some other ancient witnesses, also prefer to emend the verb from first to second person, “you are amazing” (see L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 [WBC], 249, 251). The present translation assumes the text conflates two variants: נפלאים, the otherwise unattested masculine plural participle of פָלָא, and נִפְלָאוֹת (niflaot), the usual (feminine) plural form of the Niphal participle. The latter has been changed to a verb by later scribes in an attempt to accommodate it syntactically. The original text likely read, נוראות נפלאותים מעשׂיך (“your works [are] awesome [and] amazing”).

2 tc Heb “and my being knows very much.” Better parallelism is achieved (see v. 15a) if one emends יֹדַעַת (yodaat), a Qal active participle, feminine singular form, to יָדַעְתָּ (yadata), a Qal perfect second masculine singular perfect. See L. C. Allen, Psalms 101-150 (WBC), 252.

3 tc The Hebrew term אֲשֶׁר (’asher, “which”) should probably be emended to כֲּאַשֶׁר (kaasher, “when”). The kaf (כ) may have been lost by haplography (note the kaf at the end of the preceding form).

4 sn The phrase depths of the earth may be metaphorical (euphemistic) or it may reflect a prescientific belief about the origins of the embryo deep beneath the earth’s surface (see H. W. Wolff, Anthropology of the Old Testament, 96-97). Job 1:21 also closely associates the mother’s womb with the earth.

5 tn Heb “Your eyes saw my shapeless form.” The Hebrew noun גֹּלֶם (golem) occurs only here in the OT. In later Hebrew the word refers to “a lump, a shapeless or lifeless substance,” and to “unfinished matter, a vessel wanting finishing” (Jastrow 222 s.v. גּוֹלֶם). The translation employs the dynamic rendering “when I was inside the womb” to clarify that the speaker was still in his mother’s womb at the time he was “seen” by God.

6 tn Heb “and on your scroll all of them were written, [the] days [which] were formed, and [there was] not one among them.” This “scroll” may be the “scroll of life” mentioned in Ps 69:28 (see the note on the word “living” there).



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