Ps 119:1-176. This celebrated Psalm has several
peculiarities. It is divided into twenty-two parts or stanzas, denoted
by the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Each stanza contains
eight verses, and the first letter of each verse is that which gives
name to the stanza. Its contents are mainly praises of God's Word,
exhortations to its perusal, and reverence for it, prayers for its
proper influence, and complaints of the wicked for despising it. There
are but two verses (Ps 119:122, 132) which do not contain some term or
description of God's Word. These terms are of various derivations, but
here used, for the most part, synonymously, though the use of a variety
of terms seems designed, in order to express better the several aspects
in which our relations to the revealed word of God are presented. The
Psalm does not appear to have any relation to any special occasion or
interest of the Jewish Church or nation, but was evidently "intended as
a manual of pious thoughts, especially for instructing the young, and
its peculiar artificial structure was probably adopted to aid the
memory in retaining the language."
ALEPH. (Ps 119:1-8).
1. undefiled—literally, "complete,"
perfect, or sincere (compare Ps 37:37).
the way—course of life.
in the law—according to it (compare
law—from a word meaning "to teach," is
a term of rather general purport, denoting the instruction of God's
2. testimonies—The word of God is so
called, because in it He testifies for truth and against
seek him—that is, a knowledge of Him,
with desire for conformity to His will.
3. his ways—the course He reveals as
4-6. precepts—are those directions which
relate to special conduct, from a word meaning "to inspect."
statutes—or ordinances, positive laws
of permanent nature. Both words originally denote rather positive than
moral laws, such as derive force from the divine appointment, whether
their nature or the reasons for them are apprehended by us or not.
commandments—or institutions. The term
is comprehensive, but rather denotes fundamental directions for
conduct, both enjoining and forbidding.
have respect unto—or regard carefully
as to their whole purport.
7. judgments—rules of conduct formed by
God's judicial decisions; hence the wide sense of the word in the
Psalms, so that it includes decisions of approval as well as
8. Recognizes the need of divine grace.
BETH. (Ps 119:9-16).
9. The whole verse may be read as a question;
by taking heed—is better, "for" taking
heed, that is, so as to do it. The answer is implied, and inferable
from Ps 119:5, 10, 18, &c., that is, by God's grace.
10-16. We must carefully treasure up the word
of God, declare it to others, meditate on it, and heartily delight in
it; and then by His grace we shall act according to it.
GIMEL. (Ps 119:17-24).
17-20. Life is desirable in order to serve
God; that we may do so aright, we should seek to have our eyes opened
to behold His truth, and earnestly desire fully to understand it.
21-24. God will rebuke those who despise His
word and deliver His servants from their reproach, giving them boldness
in and by His truth, even before the greatest men.
DALETH. (Ps 119:25-32).
25-27. Submitting ourselves in depression to
God, He will revive us by His promises, and lead us to declare His
mercy to others.
28-32. In order to adhere to His word, we must
seek deliverance from temptations to sin as well as from
my heart—with gracious affections.
HE. (Ps 119:33-40).
33-38. To encourage us in prayer for divine
aid in adhering to His truth, we are permitted to believe that by His
help we shall succeed.
the way of thy statutes—that is, the
way or manner of life prescribed by them. The help we hope to obtain by
prayer is to be the basis on which our resolutions should
37. Turn away mine eyes—literally, "Make
my eyes to pass, not noticing evil."
vanity—literally, "falsehood;" all
other objects of trust than God; idols, human power, &c. (Ps
31:6; 40:4; 60:11; 62:9).
quicken … in thy way—make me
with living energy to pursue the way marked out by Thee.
Revive me from the death of spiritual helplessness (Ps 119:17, 25, 40, 50; 116:3).
38. who is devoted to thy fear—or
better, "which (that is, Thy word) is for Thy fear," for producing it.
"Which is to those who fear Thee." God's word of promise belongs
peculiarly to such (compare Ge 18:19; 1Ki 2:4; 8:25) [Hengstenberg].
39, 40. Our hope of freedom from the
reproach of inconsistency is in God's power, quickening us to
live according to His Word, which He leads us to love.
for thy judgments are good—The time
must therefore be at hand when Thy justice will turn the "reproach"
from Thy Church upon the world (Isa 25:8; 66:5; Zep
VAU. (Ps 119:41-48).
41-44. The sentiment more fully carried out.
God's mercies and salvation, as revealed in His Word, provide hope of
forgiveness for the past and security in a righteous course for the
42. The possession of God's gift of
"salvation" (Ps 119:41)
will be the Psalmist's answer to the foe's "reproach," that his hope
was a fallacious one.
45-48. To freedom from reproach, when imbued
with God's truth, there is added "great boldness in the faith" [1Ti 3:13], accompanied with increasing
delight in the holy law itself, which becomes an element of
48. My hands … lift up unto …
commandments—that is, I will prayerfully (Ps 28:2) direct my heart to keep Thy
ZAIN. (Ps 119:49-56).
49-51. Resting on the promises consoles under
affliction and the tauntings of the insolent.
upon which—rather, "Remember Thy word
unto Thy servant, because," &c. So the Hebrew
50. for—rather, "This is my comfort
… that," &c. [Maurer].
hath quickened—What the Word has
already done is to faith a pledge of what it shall yet
52-56. The pious take comfort, when harassed
and distressed by wickedness of men who forsake God's law, in
remembering that the great principles of God's truth will still abide;
and also God's
judgments of old—that is, His past
interpositions in behalf of His people are a pledge that He will again
interpose to deliver them; and they become the theme of constant and
delightful meditation. The more we keep the more we love the law of
53. Horror—rather, "vehement wrath"
54. songs—As the exile sings songs of
his home (Ps 137:3),
so the child of God, "a stranger on earth," sings the songs of heaven,
his true home (Ps 39:12).
In ancient times, laws were put in verse, to imprint them the more on
the memory of the people. So God's laws are the believer's songs.
house of my pilgrimage—present life
(Ge 17:8; 47:9; Heb 11:13).
56. Rather, "This is peculiarly mine
(literally, to me), that I keep Thy precepts" [Hengstenberg and Maurer].
CHETH. (Ps 119:57-64).
57-60. Sincere desires for God's favor,
penitence, and activity in a new obedience, truly evince the sincerity
of those who profess to find God a portion (Nu
18:20; Ps 16:5; La 3:24).
58. favour—Hebrew, "face" (Ps 45:12).
59. So the prodigal son, when reduced to
straits of misery (Lu 15:17, 18).
61, 62. This the more, if opposition of
enemies, or love of ease is overcome in thus honoring God's law.
have robbed me—better, surrounded me,
either as forcible constraints like fetters, or as the cords of their
nets. Hengstenberg translates,
62. At midnight—Hengstenberg supposes a reference to the time when
the Lord went forth to slay the Egyptian first-born (Ex 11:4;
12:29; compare Job 34:20). But it rather refers to the Psalmist's
own praises and prayers in the night time. Compare Paul and Silas
16:25; compare Ps 63:6).
63. The communion of the saints. Delight in
their company is an evidence of belonging to them (Ps 16:3;
Am 3:3; Mal 3:16).
64. While opposed by the wicked, and opposing
them, the pious delight in those who fear God, but, after all, rely for
favor and guidance not on merit, but mercy.
TETH. (Ps 119:65-72).
65-67. The reliance on promises (Ps 119:49) is strengthened by experience of past
dealings according with promises, and a prayer for guidance, encouraged
by sanctified affliction.
66. Teach me good judgment and
knowledge—namely, in Thy word (so as to fathom its deep
spirituality); for the corresponding expression (Ps 119:12, 64,
68), is, "Teach me Thy
67. Referred by Hengstenberg to the chastening effect produced on
the Jews' minds by the captivity (Jer 31:18, 19). The truth is a general one (Job 5:6; Joh 15:2; Heb 12:11).
68. Compare as to the Lord Jesus (Ac 10:38).
69, 70. The crafty malice of the wicked, in
slandering him, so far from turning him away, but binds him closer to
God's Word, which they are too stupid in sin to appreciate. Hengstenberg refers the "lie" to such slanders
against the Jews during the captivity, as that in Ezr 4:1-6, of sedition.
70. fat as grease—spiritually insensible
(Ps 17:10; 73:7; Isa 6:10).
71, 72. So also affliction of any kind acts as
a wholesome discipline in leading the pious more highly to value the
truth and promises of God.
JOD. (Ps 119:73-80).
73. As God made, so He can best control, us.
So as to Israel, he owed to God his whole internal and external
existence (De 32:6).
74. So when He has led us to rely on His
truth, He will "make us to the praise of His grace" by others. "Those
who fear Thee will be glad at my prosperity, as they consider my cause
their cause" (Ps 34:2; 142:7).
75-78. in faithfulness—that is, without
in the least violating Thy faithfulness; because my sins deserved and
needed fatherly chastisement. Enduring chastisement with a filial
temper (Heb 12:6-11), God's promises of mercy (Ro 8:28) will be fulfilled, and He will give
comfort in sorrow (La 3:22; 2Co 1:3, 4).
77. Let thy tender mercies come unto
me—As I am not able to come unto them. But the wicked will be
78. but I … meditate in thy
precepts—and so shall not be "ashamed," that is, put to shame
79, 80. Those who may have thought his
afflictions an evidence of God's rejection will then be led to return
to Him; as the friends of Job did on his restoration, having been
previously led through his afflictions to doubt the reality of his
80. Let my … be sound—that is,
ashamed—disappointed in my hope of
CAPH. (Ps 119:81-88).
81-83. In sorrow the pious heart yearns for
the comforts of God's promises (Ps 73:26; 84:2).
82. Mine eyes fail for thy word—that is,
with yearning desire for Thy word. When the eyes fail, yet faith must
83. bottle in the smoke—as a skin bottle
dried and shriveled up in smoke, so is he withered by sorrow. Wine
bottles of skin used to be hung up in smoke to dry them, before the
wine was put in them [Maurer].
84-87. The shortness of my life requires that
the relief afforded to me from mine enemies should be speedy.
85. pits—plots for my destruction.
which—rather, "who," that is, "the
proud"; "pits" is not the antecedent.
87. consumed me upon earth—Hengstenberg translates, "in the land";
understanding "me" of the nation Israel, of which but a small
remnant was left. But English Version is simpler; either, "They
have consumed me so as to leave almost nothing of me on earth"; or,
"They have almost destroyed and prostrated me on the earth" [Maurer].
I forsook not—Whatever else I am
forsaken of, I forsake not Thy precepts, and so am not mistaken of Thee
(Ps 39:5, 13; 2Co 4:8, 9), and the injuries and insults of the
wicked increase the need for it. But, however they act regardless of
God's law, the pious, adhering to its teaching, receive quickening
grace, and are sustained steadfast.
LAMED. (Ps 119:89-96).
89-91. In all changes God's Word remains firm
1:25). Like the heavens, it
continually attests God's unfailing power and unchanging care (Ps 89:2).
is settled in—that is, stands as
firmly as the heaven in which it dwells, and whence it emanated.
90. thou hast established the earth, and it
91. They—the heaven (Ps 119:89) and the earth (Ps 119:90). Hengstenberg translates, "They stand for thy
judgment," that is, ready, as obedient servants, to execute them. The
usage of this Psalm favors this view. But see Jer 33:25.
92-94. Hence the pious are encouraged and
inclined to seek a knowledge of it, and persevere amidst the efforts of
those planning and waiting to destroy them.
my delights—plural, not merely
delight, but equal to all other delights.
93. The bounds of created perfection may be
defined, but those of God's law in its nature, application, and
influence, are infinite. There is no human thing so perfect but that
something is wanting to it; its limits are narrow, whereas God's law is
of infinite breadth, reaching to all cases, perfectly meeting what each
requires, and to all times (Ps 19:3, 6, 7-11; Ec 3:11). It cannot be cramped within any
definitions of man's dogmatical systems. Man never outgrows the Word.
It does not shock the ignorant man with declared anticipations of
discoveries which he had not yet made; while in it the man of science
finds his newest discoveries by tacit anticipations provided for.
MEM. (Ps 119:97-104).
97. This characteristic love for God's law
1:2) ensures increase.
98-100. of knowledge, both of the matter of
all useful, moral truth, and an experience of its application.
wiser than mine enemies—with all their
carnal cunning (De 4:6, 8).
they are ever with me—The
Hebrew is, rather singular, "it is ever with me"; the
commandments forming ONE complete
whole, Thy law.
99. understanding—is practical skill
100. more than the ancients—Antiquity is
no help against stupidity, where it does not accord with God's word
[Luther] (Job 32:7-9). The Bible is the key of all knowledge,
the history of the world, past, present, and to come (Ps 111:10). He who does the will of God shall know
of the doctrine (Joh 7:17).
101-104. Avoidance of sinful courses is both
the effect and means of increasing in divine knowledge (compare Ps 19:10).
NUN. (Ps 119:105-112).
105. Not only does the Word of God inform us
of His will, but, as a light on a path in darkness, it shows us how to
follow the right and avoid the wrong way. The lamp of the Word is not
the sun. He would blind our eyes in our present fallen state; but we
may bless God for the light shining as in a dark place, to guide us
until the Sun of Righteousness shall come, and we shall be made capable
of seeing Him (2Pe 1:19; Re 22:4). The lamp is fed with the oil of the
Spirit. The allusion is to the lamps and torches carried at night
before an Eastern caravan.
106-108. Such was the national covenant at
Sinai and in the fields of Moab.
108. freewill offerings—the spontaneous
expressions of his gratitude, as contrasted with the appointed
"offerings" of the temple (Ho 14:2; Heb 13:15). He determines to pursue this way,
relying on God's quickening power (Ps 119:50) in affliction, and a gracious
acceptance of his "spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise" (Ps 50:5, 14,
109, 110. In the midst of deadly perils (the
phrase is drawn from the fact that what we carry in our hands may
easily slip from them, Jud 12:3; 1Sa 28:21; Job 13:14; compare 1Sa 19:5), and exposed to crafty enemies, his
safety and guidance is in the truth and promises of God.
111, 112. These he joyfully takes as his
perpetual heritage, to perform the duties and receive the comforts they
113. vain thoughts—better, "unstable
persons," literally, "divided men," those of a divided, doubting
1:8); "a double-minded man"
[Hengstenberg], skeptics, or, skeptical
notions as opposed to the certainty of God's word.
114. hiding-place—(Compare Ps 27:5).
shield—(Ps 3:3; 7:10).
hope in thy word—confidently rest on
its teachings and promises.
115-117. Hence he fears not wicked men, nor
dreads disappointment, sustained by God in making His law the rule of
Depart from me—Ye can do nothing with
me; for, &c. (Ps 6:8).
118-120. But the disobedient and rebellious
will be visited by God's wrath, which impresses the pious with
wholesome fear and awe.
their deceit is falsehood—that is, all
their cunning deceit, wherewith they seek to entrap the godly, is in
120. The "judgments" are those on the wicked
119:119). Joyful hope goes
hand in hand with fear (Hab 3:16-18).
AIN. (Ps 119:121-128).
121-126. On the grounds of his integrity,
desire for God's word, and covenant relation to Him, the servant of God
may plead for His protecting care against the wicked, gracious guidance
to the knowledge of truth, and His effective vindication of the
righteous and their cause, which is also His own.
122. Be surety—Stand for me against my
oppressors (Ge 43:9; Isa 38:14).
127, 128. Therefore—that is, In view of
these benefits, or, Because of the glory of Thy law, so much praised in
the previous parts of the Psalm.
I love … [and] Therefore
(repeated)—All its precepts, on all subjects, are estimable for
their purity, and lead one imbued with their spirit to hate all evil
19:10). The Word of God
admits of no eclecticism; its least title is perfect (Ps 12:6; Mt
PE. (Ps 119:129-136).
129. wonderful—literally, "wonders,"
that is, of moral excellence.
130. The entrance—literally, "opening";
God's words, as an open door, let in light, or knowledge. Rather, as
Hengstenberg explains it, "The
opening up," or, "explanation of thy word." To the natural
man the doors of God's Word are shut. Lu 24:27, 31; Ac 17:3;
Eph 1:18, confirm this view,
"opening (that is, explaining) and alleging," &c.
unto the simple—those needing or
desiring it (compare Ps 19:7).
131-135. An ardent desire (compare Ps 56:1, 2) for spiritual enlightening,
establishment in a right course, deliverance from the wicked, and
evidence of God's favor is expressed
I opened my mouth, and panted—as a
traveller in a hot desert pants for the cooling breeze (Ps 63:1; 84:2).
132. Look … upon me—opposed to
hiding or averting the face (compare Ps 25:15; 86:6; 102:17).
as thou usest to do—or, "as it is
right in regard to those who love Thy name." Such have a
right to the manifestations of God's grace, resting on the
nature of God as faithful to His promise to such, not on their own
133. Order my steps—Make firm, so
that there be no halting (Ps 40:2).
any iniquity—Ps 119:34 favors Hengstenberg, "any iniquitous man," any "oppressor."
But the parallel first clause in this (Ps 119:33) favors English Version (Ps 19:13). His hope of deliverance from
external oppression of man (Ps 119:34) is founded on his deliverance from the
internal "dominion of iniquity," in answer to his prayer (Ps 119:33).
136. Zealous himself to keep God's law, he is
deeply afflicted when others violate it (compare Ps 119:53). Literally, "Mine eyes come down
(dissolved) like water brooks" (La 3:48; Jer 9:1).
because, &c.—(Compare Eze 9:4; Jer
137-139. God's justice and faithfulness in His
government aggravate the neglect of the wicked, and more excite the
lively zeal of His people.
139. (Ps 69:9).
140. very pure—literally, "refined,"
shown pure by trial.
141. The pious, however despised of men, are
distinguished in God's sight by a regard for His law.
142-144. The principles of God's government
are permanent and reliable, and in the deepest distress His people find
them a theme of delightful meditation and a source of reviving power
law is the truth—It therefore cannot
deceive as to its promises.
everlasting—(Ps 111:3), though to outward appearance seeming
KOPH. (Ps 119:145-152).
145-149. An intelligent devotion is led by
divine promises and is directed to an increase of gracious affections,
arising from a contemplation of revealed truth.
147. prevented—literally, "came before,"
anticipated not only the dawn, but even the usual periods of
the night; when the night watches, which might be expected to
find me asleep, come, they find me awake (Ps 63:6;
77:4; La 2:19). Such is the
earnestness of the desire and love for God's truth.
149. quicken me—revive my heart
according to those principles of justice, founded on Thine own nature,
and revealed in Thy law, which specially set forth Thy mercy to the
humble as well as justice to the wicked (compare Ps 119:30).
150-152. Though the wicked are near to
injure, because far from God's law, He is near to help,
and faithful to His word, which abides for ever.
RESH. (Ps 119:153-160).
153-155. Though the remembering of God's law
is not meritorious, yet it evinces a filial temper and provides the
pious with promises to plead, while the wicked in neglecting His law,
reject God and despise His promises (compare Ps 9:13;
154. Plead, &c.—Hengstenberg translates, "Fight my fight." (See
Ps 35:1; 43:1; Mic 7:9).
156. (See on Ps
157. (Compare Ps 119:86, 87, 95).
158. (Compare Ps 119:136).
"traitors," who are faithless to a righteous sovereign and side with
His enemies (compare Ps 25:3, 8).
159. (Compare Ps 119:121-126, 153-155).
quicken me, O Lord, according to thy
This prayer occurs here for the ninth time, showing a deep sense of
160. God has been ever faithful, and the
principles of His government will ever continue worthy of
from the beginning—that is, "every
word from Genesis (called so by the Jews from its first words,
'In the beginning') to the end of the Scriptures is true." Hengstenberg translates more literally, "The
sum of thy words is truth." The sense is substantially the same.
The whole body of revelation is truth. "Thy Word is nothing but truth"
161-165. (Compare Ps 119:46, 86).
awe—reverential, not slavish fear,
which could not coexist with love (Ps 119:163; 1Jo 4:8). Instead of fearing his persecutors, he
fears God's Word alone (Lu 12:4, 5). The Jews inscribe in the first page of
the great Bible (Ge 28:17),
"How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God,
and this is the gate of heaven!"
162. (Compare Mt 13:44, 45). Though persecuted by the mighty, the
pious are not turned from revering God's authority to seek their favor,
but rejoice in the possession of this "pearl of great price," as great
victors in spoils. Hating falsehood and loving truth, often, every day,
praising God for it, they find peace and freedom from temptation.
163. lying—that is, as in Ps 119:29, unfaithfulness to the covenant of God
with His people; apostasy.
165. nothing shall offend them—or,
"cause them to offend" (compare Margin).
166-168. As they keep God's law from motives
of love for it, and are free from slavish fear, the are ready to
subject their lives to His inspection.
168. all my ways are before thee—I wish
to order my ways as before Thee, rather than in reference to man (Ge 19:1;
Ps 73:23). All men's ways are
under God's eye (Pr 5:21); the
godly alone realize the fact, and live accordingly.
TAU. (Ps 119:169-176).
169, 170. The prayer for understanding
of the truth precedes that for deliverance. The fulfilment of
the first is the basis of the fulfilment of the second (Ps 90:11-17). On the terms "cry" and
"supplication" (compare Ps 6:9; 17:1).
171, 172. shall utter—or, "pour
out praise" (compare Ps 19:2);
shall cause Thy praises to stream forth as from a bubbling, overflowing
172. My tongue shall speak of thy
word—literally, "answer Thy Word," that is, with praise,
respond to Thy word. Every expression in which we praise God and
His Word is a response, or acknowledgment, corresponding to the
perfections of Him whom we praise.
173, 174. (Compare Ps 119:77, 81,
I have chosen—in preference to all
other objects of delight.
175. Save me that I may praise Thee.
thy judgments—as in Ps 119:149,
176. Though a wanderer from God, the truly
pious ever desires to be drawn back to Him; and, though for a time
negligent of duty, he never forgets the commandments by which it is
lost—therefore utterly helpless as to
recovering itself (Jer 50:6; Lu 15:4). Not only the sinner before conversion,
but the believer after conversion, is unable to recover himself; but
the latter, after temporary wandering, knows to whom to look for
restoration. Ps 119:175, 176 seem to sum up the petitions,
confessions, and professions of the Psalm. The writer desires God's
favor, that he may praise Him for His truth, confesses that he has
erred, but, in the midst of all his wanderings and adversities,
professes an abiding attachment to the revealed Word of God, the theme
of such repeated eulogies, and the recognized source of such great and
unnumbered blessings. Thus the Psalm, though more than usually
didactic, is made the medium of both parts of devotion—prayer and