Psalm 139

PS139For the music director, for David a song


You have searched me Lord,

and you know…[i]

You know when I sit and when I rise

From afar you understand my thoughts.

You know when I am wondering and when I am lying down[ii],

you are acquainted with all my ways.

Before there is even a word on my tongue,

O Lord, you already know everything.

The paths behind me and before me, you have chosen[iii].

You have put your hand on me.

This[iv] knowledge is too wonderful for me,

It is beyond my reach. I cannot attain it.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Where can I flee from your face?

If I ascend to the heavens, there you are.

And if I lie in the depths[v], behold you are there.

If I am carried[vi] by the wings of the dawn,

If I dwell at the ends of the sea.

Even there your hand guides me.

Your right hand takes hold of me.

And I say, “Surely the darkness will conceal[vii] me

but the night is light around me.”

Even the darkness is unable conceal anything from you

And the night will shine like the day,

The darkness will be as light.


For you created[viii] my inner most parts[ix],

You knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I will thank you because you[x] are awesome

and marvelous wonders are your works,

You know[xi] well my soul.

My frame[xii], which was made in secret, was not hidden from you

I was formed in the depths of the earth.

Your eyes saw my unformed being,

and in your book all of the days ordained for me have been written

and there is not one day missing[xiii].


How precious to me are your friends[xiv] God.

They have become strong.

I count them, they are more than grains of sand

I awake and still I am with you[xv].

Will you slay the wicked, God?

Will you turn violent men away from me?

They speak deceitfully about you

Your enemies[xvi] lie.

God, those you hate I will hate

And those who rebel against you I will loath.

With a complete hatred, I will hate them.

They will be my enemies.

Search me God and know my heart,

Examine me and know the thoughts that trouble[xvii] me.

See if there is an idolatrous way within me.

And lead me in the way of eternity.




[i] Lit “and you will know” (ותדע), many versions have supplied the object but it is not in the text itself.

[ii] Lit. “my wondering and my Lying down” (ארחי ורבעי)

[iii] The LXX reads “The end and the beginning, you formed me (τὰ ἔσχατα καὶ τὰ ἀρχαῖα σὺ ἔπλασάς με)” indicating that the translators under stood the root to be יצר (to form) rather than צור (to enclose). NIDOTTE states “In Ps. 139:5, God hems the psalmist in on every side. This could be read negatively as a lament, complaining at God’s oppressive constraint. However, it might also be a positive assurance of his comprehensive care, or simply an affirmation of absolute sovereignty.” The context of the Psalm strongly supports the idea of positive assurance rather than negative lament. In spite of the textual challenges of this verse, the overall intent seems to be to describe God’s sovereign control over a person’s whole life from its beginning to its end.

[iv] The demonstrative pronoun “this” is added for clarification but it is not in the original text (פליאה דעת ממני).

[v] Lit. Sheol.

[vi] The verb נשא ‘to carry’ is active in form but appears to be passive in meaning. The NET translates this similarly as “If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn.”

[vii] The NET notes:  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. BHS, shows support for this emendation in Jerome’s, the Psalter according to the Hebrews.

[viii] NIDOTTE notes “The root קנה in the sense “create” is much disputed (Vawter; THAT, s.v.) but is to be maintained on the grounds of the comparative linguistic and religious evidence (De Moor for Ugartic; cf. KAI III 22a) and of its use and parallels in context (Ge. 14:19, 22; Deut 32:6; Ps 139:13; Prov 8:22; cf. Westermann on Ge. 4:1)

[ix] Lit. kidneys

[x] The MT reads “being feared (f. pl), I was wonderful”/“נוראות נפליתי”.  The feminine plural verb does not match the subject which is singular and makes the phrase ambiguous. In 11Qpsa this phrase reads “you are being feared”/ “אתה נורא” shifting the phrase to the 2nd person i.e. rather than speaking about me, this verse is speaking about God. This is echoed in the NET translation. The LXX and the Latin Vulgate both reflect an underlying Hebrew text that aligns to 11Qpsa. See “A favorite bible verse, misunderstood?

[xi] The change from “my soul knows it” (NIV, NASB, ESV) to “You know my soul” (NET), does not reflect a textual variation but only a change in vocalization. If we accept the shift to the 2nd person found in 11Qpsa, the LXX, and the Vulgate then this change of vocalization would be expected.

[xii] Lit. my bone.

[xiii] There are several variants that are all equally difficult. The MT reads “ולא אחד בהם”  but offers a marginal correction of “ולו אחד בהם”. 11Qpsa reads “ולו אח מהמה”

[xiv] רע is commonly used to convey the idea of friend/companion and was understood as “friend” by the translators of the LXX. “Friends” seems to fit the context better than the traditional translation of “thoughts” because the passage appears to be contrasting those who stand with God against those who have rebelled against God. Similarly, in James 2:23 Abraham is called a “friend of God” (φίλος θεοῦ) in recognition of his trust and allegiance with God, and Jesus calls believers,  who follow his commands, “friends” (φίλους) in Jn. 15:13-15.

[xv] This phrase is grammatically difficult. The MT reads הקיצתי ועודי עמך, but 11Qpsa reads הקיצותי ועוד עמכה.

[xvi] The NET translators’ note that “Heb “lifted up for emptiness, your cities.” The Hebrew text as it stands makes no sense. The form נָשֻׂא (nasu’; a Qal passive participle) should be emended to נָשְׂאוּ (nos®u; a Qal perfect, third common plural, “[they] lift up”). Many emend עָרֶיךָ (‘arekha, “your cities”) to עָלֶיךָ (‘alekha, “against you”), but it is preferable to understand the noun as an Aramaism and translate “your enemies” (see Dan 4:16 and L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 [WBC], 253).“ The LXX translators understood this to mean cities. In this verse the idea of “carrying to nothing” נשאו לשוא is used idiomatically to describe dishonesty, in Ps. 24:4 we see a similar example but in the negative, לא נשא לשוא.

[xvii] While many translations translate שרעף as simply “thought” it is better understood as a disquieting or worrying thought. This nuance is communicated in the NASB and NIV as “anxious thoughts” and the NET as “concerns”

The Demise of the Evangelical Church

It is common today to hear “experts” proclaiming the coming crisis facing the evangelical church, a crisis they tell us will be the result of Millennials leaving the church in search of an “authentic” faith elsewhere, a faith that upholds “their values.” We are told that unless the church abandons its “archaic” beliefs and begins to aligns its doctrines with the values of the postmodern culture, that it will inevitably loose the next generation. Tragically those advocating these changes seldom ask questions about the biblical foundation for the doctrinal changes they are advocating. And the new and unorthodox doctrines that we are told to embrace stand almost entirely on a foundation built from anecdotal evidence that, upon examination, seems to be crumbling. The study cited in the following article from the Gospel coalition is just one of a number of recent studies that demonstrate the frailty of the foundation on which these claims stand and it is time for the church to stop reacting, out of fear, to those who proclaim the church’s demise and instead trust that Christ is strong enough to protect a church that remains faithful to him.

Who is Really Leaving the Faith and Why?
by Andrew Hess

faithstatsIt’s likely you’ve heard the news: the sky is falling. Reports have been circulating for a while now that our churches are on the decline and it’s the young people who are to blame. Articles, blogs and even books have been written warning ministry leaders and parents alike, the Millennials are leaving our churches in droves of hundreds and thousands. Intrigued by the implications of a generation giving up on organized religion, we set out to understand who is leaving and why. And what we found was surprising. Many of the most significant and encouraging findings are largely being ignored, while the less accurate and discouraging ones are being emphasized. Focus on the Family talked to respected sociologists of religion and studied the best, nationally-representative studies and found the bad news is not as bad as you might have heard. Our new report, “Millennial Religious Participation and Retention” draws out some very important research for those who are raising and ministering to the next generation Pew Research recently found that 18% of young adults leaving their faith altogether and another 20% are switching from one faith to another. This latter cohort, while leaving individual churches, are not leaving their individual faith. They might be switching to a church across town or to one near their college campus. With more young adults switching than leaving, it’s odd very few are talking about those switching. In fact, many, we suspect, have been counting them along with those who are leaving. Also interesting is the huge difference between conservative, Bible-teaching churches and mainline Protestant churches. The General Social Survey, perhaps the most academically-trusted source for demographic data back through 1972, recently noted a 2.2% decline in mainline churches and a slight 0.6% increase among conservative churches (from 1991 to 2012).

Continued Here

A favorite bible verse, misunderstood? It is not all about ME!

PS139-14As I was reading through Psalms 139, I realized that one of the verses I knew well in English didn’t quite read the same way in Hebrew. The Hebrew was a bit broken and the translators had to smooth it out a little in order for it to make sense in English. In the English of the KJV, and similar to most English translations, Psalms 139:14 reads I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” but the Hebrew text readsI will thank you because fearfully, I was wonderful. Wonderful [are] your works and my spirit knows [it] well (or “you know well my spirit”).” Sometimes, these kinds of textual difficulties are resolved when we look at another Hebrew text, like the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls, where a variant reading might read a little more smoothly, but in the case of Ps. 139:14 it only deepened the questions. In the primary Psalms scroll from the DSS (11Qpsa) there is a shift from the first person to the second person making this verse more about God and less about me. The text from the Dead Sea reads “I will thank you because you are magnificent. Wonderful and amazing [are] your works and you know well my spirit.” In my quest to understand which reading was original, I began by looking at some of the Ancient translations, beginning with the Greek Septuagint (2nd Century BC) and the Latin Vulgate (4th Century AD). These two texts were the primary texts used by the church during the first sixteen centuries and both texts followed the reading found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. In translations of the Psalms the current reading of Ps. 139:14 doesn’t seem to have appeared until the Reformation period.

So why did the text change?
For centuries leading up to the reformation period, the primary text used by the church was the Latin Vulgate (a text that few understood). Often even the priests who were teaching the text could not read the text of the bible themselves. This opened the door to serious abuses of Scripture because few could challenge the claims made about its contents. In the 16th century, some of the few men, like Luther, Calvin, etc…, who could read the Scriptures became increasingly concerned with the disparity between what the church was teaching and what the Scriptures really said. In their quest to truly understand the Scriptures they began looking at the original Hebrew and Greek texts as well as the Latin text of the Vulgate. And they began to produce new translations for the people from these Greek and Hebrew texts in much the same way as St. Jerome had produced a Latin version in the common language of the people many centuries earlier based on the Hebrew and Greek texts he had.

The Hebrew text
In the 16th century, the earliest Hebrew manuscripts came from the 9th century; however, because of the strict controls the Jewish scribes who were producing these scrolls had developed, copies of the Hebrew text were remarkably accurate. Scholars generally considered variant readings of the Hebrew text in Greek and Latin translations to reflect mistranslations by earlier translators and readings from the Greek or Latin were usually only considered when the Hebrew text was difficult or vague. The translations produced in the 16th century reflect a reasonably accurate translation of the Hebrew texts that scholars had access to at that time. For centuries, very little changed with respect to the Hebrew texts to which scholars had access and the opinion that the LXX was a poor translation of the Hebrew prevailed. As we entered the 20th century, we began to discover ancient texts, like those found near the Dead Sea but it was not until the late 20th before these new discoveries began having an impact on bible translations. As scholars began to examine the Dead Sea scrolls, they began to have a deeper respect for the translation work of translators of the LXX because these scrolls revealed a Hebrew base text for many of its variant readings, like those in Ps. 139:14. In many cases these were not mistranslations but accurate translations of a variant text.

Is it “My spirit knows” or “You know my Spirit”
One of the translation differences in this verse doesn’t reflect any “textual variant” but only a change in vocalization. Hebrew was originally written without vowels and vowels were added to the text many, many centuries later. These are the dots and dashes that can be seen in the text of the MT below. The Masorites (who added these vowels) did so in a way that kept the parallelism from the first half the verse i.e. “I have been fearfully and wonderfully made” and “My soul knows it.” However, if we accept the authenticity of the earlier text then we would expect the vocalization to reflect the 2nd person i.e. “You are fearful and your works are wonderful” and “You know my soul.” Letter for letter, the text of this ending phrase is the identical, it is only the pronunciation that changes.

Does this mean that our bibles are unreliable?
Sometimes it is claimed that our bibles today reflect a text that has been translated from a translation of a translation of a translation, etc… and that the texts we have today no longer reflect the writings of the original authors. However, despite the variant readings found in these ancient witnesses, the overall picture we see in these ancient texts demonstrates that the text of Scripture has been remarkably well preserved. In fact the text of Scripture has been so well preserved that many scholars doubted the authenticity of these ancient witnesses for decades. To accept the authenticity of these ancient manuscripts meant these scholars had to abandon their theories about how Scripture had developed because these ancient manuscripts demonstrated that the text was far better preserved than their theories would permit. While there are occasions, like this one, where we need to re-evaluate our understanding of a verse, these are the exceptions and not the rule. And while some variants like this one do introduce slight nuances into the text, the overall message of the whole passage remains unchanged.

PS139 Version Table




NET Notes (Psa 139:14)

22 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 (nifla’ot), 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, נפלאותים מעשׂיך נוראות (“your works [are] awesome [and] amazing”).
23 tc Heb “and my being knows very much.” Better parallelism is achieved (see v. 15a) if one emends יֹדַעַת (yoda’at), a Qal active participle, feminine singular form, to יָדַעְתָּ (yada’ta), a Qal perfect second masculine singular perfect. See L. C. Allen, Psalms 101–150 (WBC), 252.

Seeing a woman: a call to godliness

male-female-equalityNate Pyle’s article “Seeing a Woman: A conversation between a father and son”  offers a lot of good advice, and there is much to glean from what he has said, but I think that Nate’s response falls short of being truly biblical. Yes, as Nate reminds us, men are absolutely responsible for their own sins and cannot blame their sinful choices on the women around them no matter what women do or do not do, wear or do not wear, etc… Men blaming women for their sinful choices began in the garden of Eden (Ge. 3:12) and sadly continues to this very day. Nate, very appropriately, address this poor excuse for a man’s choice to sin. Yes, godly men need to see women as a whole person created and loved by God rather than objectifying them and Nate’s advice on maintaining eye contact is one good way for men to remember this. However, one of the lies being told to our culture today is that that the way a woman dresses should not be a temptation to sin and unfortunately the church today has too frequently bought into this lie. When women dress immodestly, it really can be a source of temptation for the men around her (something we all intuitively know) and sometimes the right answer for a man is not to stay in the presence of that temptation and maintain eye contact, the right answer is to flee (1 Co. 6:18, Pr. 5, etc…). We should not expect women, who have not made a commitment to follow Christ, to dress or act in ways that honor God. Godly men should be prepared to face temptation and know when to stand strong in its presence and when to flee. However, we really should expect women, who are followers of Christ, to dress and act in ways that brings honor to him (1 Ti.2:9-10) and the church has failed our women when we refuse to discuss this topic.

Additionally, Nate tells us that we should “Encourage [a woman’s] confidence.  But don’t do all this because she is weaker.  That’s the biggest bunch of crap out there.  Women are not weaker than men. They are not the weaker sex. They are the other sex” (emphasis his). While it is true that the idea that “women are the weaker sex” has far too often been overplayed, there is truth to this statement (1 Pe. 3:7) that we should not ignore. It is not “the biggest bunch of crap out there.” It is biblical! Being the weaker sex does not mean that women have any greater propensity to sin than do men nor does it mean they are inferior, these are lies that has been perpetuated far too often throughout history. It does mean that women are typically physically and emotionally weaker (a politically incorrect idea, I know) and men do have a responsibility to be protective of the women around them (both physically and emotionally) because that is the role God has given men. Unfortunately, our culture (even in the Church) has bought into the lie that equality and sameness are identical ideas, they are not. In striving for sameness, women have lost the place of dignity and honor they deserve and once had in generations past. While the feminist movement brought about many corrections that were desperately needed, it has also taken away many things away that women of our generation deserve and desperately need today. In the church, we need to remember to call our men to be godly men and our women to be godly women even when the call to godliness is counter to the culture around us; our standard is God’s word. Neither sex is responsible for the sins of the opposite sex but both sexes have a responsibility to love, honor, and build up the whole body of Christ.