Psalms Chapter 119:1-16 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, November 29, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series.

The books referenced in these notes are:

1. Psalms vol 3: Psalms 90-150, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms, Baker Academic, 2008 by John Goldingay

2. Psalms: Revised Expositor’s Commentary by Willem Van Gemeren

Ps 119:1-16

The longest of the psalms, an alphabetical acrostic of twenty two stanzas of eight verses each, Psalm 119 is classified a wisdom psalm, not least because it uses no less than eight words for God’s law throughout much of it’s one hundred seventy-six verses. (Van Gemeren)

Ps 119:1
This opening verse parallels Ps 1:1.

Happy/blessed: Hebrew asre, a state that is a gift from God, and being “happy” as asre is often translated is only a part of the blessedness. “Blessed” is an ANE expression for wisdom teaching as far back as the Egyptian Pyramid Texts up to the Beatitudes. “Blessed” in the Beatitudes is the Greek makarios, the word used to translate the Hebrew asre in the Greek OT version of the Psalms. The blessed are those actively seeking godly wisdom. Goldingay translates asre as “good fortune”. He differentiates this “blessed” from that of the Hebrew barak “bless, make fruitful”. Goldingay’s “blessed” are those whose whole lives work out well, because God gives them all good things in the positive, while delivering the blessed from trouble and preserving them through crises in the negative. (Van Gemeren, Goldingay)

Blameless, undefiled: Hebrew tamim, tam. More positive than “blameless” but less than “sinless”. Defines persons with a basic orientation toward doing what is right. Life with God is not just an inward attitude, but outer action as well, a continual staying on the right path as defined by God.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:2
Decrees/testimonies: Hebrew edut “solemn statements of God’s expectation”.(Goldingay)

seek: Hebrew daras, baqas “seek help from”, “treat someone as a source of guidance and help”. “Seek” misleads since it has religious connotations of “yearn for, search out”, which is not the proper meaning.(Goldingay)

Heart: Hebrew leb, labab. The heart in ancient thought is closer to the modern notion of “mind”, the place where thought occurs and decisions are made. The bowels were the ancients’ idea of the seat of emotion in the body.(Goldingay)

This verse speaks of unity in seeking God’s aid in both right behavior and right thought. One must be right in thought and deed, and God teaches us to be so.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:3
Wrong/iniquity should be defined here not in abstract terms of right and wrong, but failing to follow the ways of God, which mean both imitating God and following His instruction on how to live. (Deu 8:6, 10:12; 1 Kgs 2:3)(Goldingay)

Ps 119:4
Precepts: Hebrew piqqudim, “things appointed”, here by God. God has given orders on how men are to behave “you commanded”. Man must follow these orders to live properly, not make their own minds up. (Goldingay)

Ps 119:5
Statutes: Hebrew hoq or huqqa, something prescribed, like a decree or a law. The verse says that one may desire to be obedient at one level, yet disobedient at another.

Ps 119:6
Shaming is part of the negative counterpart to v. 1’s happy/blessed. In ancient cultures one’s stand with his fellows was supremely important. Obedience to God’s statutes creates prosperity and public honor; disobedience creates trouble and shame among one’s fellows, a terrible thing in more group-oriented ancient times. In OT contexts shame is abandonment by God and the inevitable ruin that follows.(Goldingay, Van Gemeren)

Ps. 119:7
Praise: Hebrew yada or toda. “Praise or give thanks” is one aspect of the Hebrew, people expressing appreciation for God’s action(s) on their behalf. “Confess” is also a good translation, because yada is normally used of public testimony, about things both good or bad.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:8
Verse 5’s “desire” is now remade into this verse’s commitment.

To be abandoned by God is to be faced with terrible forces, even death.

“Utterly”, Hebrew ad meod, is literally “too much”, and is likely better translated as “never, not at all” as in HCSB.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:9
A rhetorical question, but with a point. The question here supposes both that one wishes to be pure, but also that one has trouble or some opposing lack of desire to be pure.(Goldingay)

Purity is a relative thing, for compared to God no one is pure (Job 15:14, 25:4). But Isaiah (Is 1:16) tells people to purify themselves. Thus one might reason one is to strive to be as pure as he can. How? By following God’s word, Hebrew dabar, which mixes the meanings of both command (119:17) and promise (119:49)(Goldingay)

Ps 119:10
The dichotomy between what we want and what we actually do continues here, as the first line speaks of personal responsibility, while the second portion asks God’s aid in not wandering from God’s way.

Even more difficult, the Hebrew behind “let wander” can be interpreted “make” or “force” someone to stray (Greek OT : do not “cast” or “thrust” me away from your commands). If one reads the text that way, v.10 might be read as “I will stay on the path, do not therefore act against me.”(Goldingay)

Ps 119:11
If “with all my heart” speaks of effort and commitment, “in my heart” speaks about depth of sincerity, of conforming the individual’s life and thought to God’s word.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:12
Praised/Blessed: When God is the subject, Hebrew barak means to bless as in “make fruitful”. When God is the object,a s here, barak likely derives from the noun berek “knee”, and signifies bending the knees in honor of someone.(Goldingay)

The second portion verb teach (Hebrew lamad) mixes the personal responsibility and divine aid necess for man to follow God’s laws.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:13
Proclaim/declared has a neat correspondence with judgments from God’s mouth. The verse also shows the psalmist working out his commitment to God’s law, when he speaks of them to his fellows. To not do as he proclaims would shame the psalmist before his fellows. (Goldingay)

Ps 119:14
The psalmist declares that he derives as much pleasure from following God’s decrees as he would if he had all the wealth he could want.(Goldingay)

Ps 119:16
Delight: Hebrew shaa, it conveys a sense of childish enthusiasm for something.(Goldingay)

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