Read thru Old Testament Devotional – July 16, 2017

July 16


Psalms 19-21


Book #1: 1-41, cont’d.


Psalm 19

Psalm 19:1-6-David speaks here of God's general revelation.  All of creation reveals the existence and wonder of God.  The word “heavens” speaks of the place where the stars are.  The word “expanse” (NASV, “firmament”-KJV) speaks of the “skies above the earth where the clouds are” (:1).  While no words are used…both at day and at night their message is proclaimed…by the sheer reality of their existence (:2-3).  The word “line” (NASV, KJV) in verse 4, literally means “line, string, cord”.  Here, it is likely that since it is being used in a passage that is making reference to various sounds (“speech…words…voice…utterances”-3-4), it is speaking of a sound that is made by a string, such as one found on a stringed instrument.  Remember that David played the harp.  That is the reason why the NIV translates this word as “voice” and the NLT as “message”…speaking of the fact that creation itself communicates or transmits the testimony of the existence of God.  The words “in them” (:4b) are a reference back to the “heavens” in v. 1.  The “heavens” are like a “tent”…they have the appearance of being the place where the sun dwells and from which it makes it exits each morning when it rises (:4b-5).  From one end of the “heavens” to the other it passes each day and everything on earth feels its warmth.  While God’s existence was evidenced in vv. 1-4 by what could be seen with the eye…here, God’s existence is evidenced by what can be felt by the body (:6).

Psalm 19:7-14-David speaks here of God's special revelation.  God’s Word reveals the nature and will of God.  No longer is God known only in general, broad terms…but His Word is specific and detailed.  Notice the 6-fold description of God’s special revelation through His Word…

  1. “law of the LORD” (:7)…the word “law” is “Torah” (cf. 1:2)…it is “perfect”, meaning
  2. “testimony of the LORD” (:7)
  3. “precepts of the LORD” (:8)
  4. “commandment of the LORD” (:8)
  5. “fear of the LORD” (:9)
  6. “judgments of the LORD” (:9)


In this poem (verses 7–14) the psalmist first describes the Law of Yahweh in six different ways (verses 7–9), praises its attractiveness and worth (verses 10–11), and prays for help from the Lord in obeying it (verses 12–14).

In verses 7–9 six words are used for the Law, the sacred record of Yahweh’s instructions to his people (see Psa 119, where eight words are used). The first one, Torah (law), is used in 1:2 (see comments); the sixth one, ordinances (the plural of mishPaT), was seen as “judgment” in 7:6. The other words are: verse 7c testimony, a word meaning reminder, instruction; verse 8a precepts, a word always used in the plural, meaning orders, legal directives; verse 8c commandment, meaning law, command. All five of these words are nearly synonymous in this context, since the psalmist was searching for words that emphasize different aspects of the same thing, God’s Law. The translator will have to determine whether to use a single term for all, or a similar set of terms.

In many languages law means only orders and regulations sent out from local bureaucrats. In order to avoid such a restricted meaning, it will often be necessary to render law as “the teaching given by God” or “the instructions God gave the people.” Although the Hebrew term Torah is used in verse 8, translators working in languages strongly influenced by Islamic terminology should not use TowaraT, because this term is applied to the Hebrew Scriptures generally.

     The testimony of the Lord may often be rendered as “what the Lord tells you to do” or “all that the Lord says.”

The only difficulty arises with the fear of the Lord in verse 9a. As Dahood points out, all other possessive phrases of the Lord have the Lord as subject, not object; here, however, the traditional understanding of “fear” as reverence or awe makes the Lord the object. frcl, however, translates “The respect that the Lord inspires is pure.” Several commentators prefer to emend the Hebrew to say “the word of Yahweh” (as in 119:38), and gecl translates “His word.” Some with to translate the Hebrew text as “religion,” explaining in a footnote that this represents what the Lord requires of his people. Although it does not sound very natural, the translation “Reverence (or, Respect) for the Lord” is probably the best one. Fear of the Lord must often be recast as a verbal phrase; for example, “it is good for people to worship the Lord.” Line b of verse 9 may then be rendered “they will worship him forever.”

     The ordinances of the Lord (tev “judgments”) must be expressed in some languages as “what the Lord decides is fair and true,” or idiomatically, “when the Lord cuts the words he cuts them fairly.”

The six adjectives used are not all entirely synonymous, but there is overlapping in meaning: perfect (see “blameless” in 18:23); sure (see in 12:1 the verb “to be sure, reliable, faithful”); right (with much the same meaning; see “upright” in 11:2); pure (see 18:26; a “pure commandment” is one that is right, fair, just); clean (synonym of pure; see 12:6); and righteous (fair, just). Translations of these six adjectives vary: njv “perfect, enduring, just, lucid, pure, true”; njb “perfect, trustworthy, honest, pure, pure, true.” In translation the most important thing is to use adjectives that will naturally apply to the subject. In some languages perfect is rendered as “the best,” “without any fault,” “could not be better.” tev’s “trustworthy” is sometimes rendered “you can depend on it,” or idiomatically, “you can put your heart on it.”

The four effects of the Law on those who obey it are described in verses 7–8: verse 7b reviving the soul (“turning the nefesh”; see 3:2), that is, giving renewed vitality and strength to one’s whole being; verse 7d making wise the simple, in which simple means an inexperienced, uninstructed, naïve person; verse 8b rejoicing the heart, that is, bringing joy to the person; and verse 8d enlightening the eyes, which probably means bringing understanding, wisdom (see 119:105, 130), or else, as in 13:3b, restoring strength (as njv renders it).

In verse 9 the secondary lines b and d, instead of stating the effects of the Law and commandments on those who obey them, further describe them: enduring forever (see verb in 18:3) and righteous altogether, or “are always right” (tev “always fair”; see the adjective “right” in 4:1).

Bratcher, R. G., & Reyburn, W. D. (1991). A translator’s handbook on the book of Psalms (pp. 192–193). New York: United Bible Societies, Logos Bible Software


David expresses the value of God’s Word (:10).  Then, he describes the purpose of God’s Word…it warns him of sin (:11-12), whether it be done deliberately (:13), or by mistake (“hidden faults”-:12).  Finally, he prays that as a result of his life being based on God’s Word, he would be acceptable to God.


Psalm 20

Psalm 20:1-9-Notice the number of times that David uses the words “you,“ “your,” and “our” in verses 1-5.  He prays for others that are experiencing difficulties…that God will hear their prayers and answer.  He is confident that when we trust in Him we will be saved (:5-6).  He says that some have confidence in their own power…but we have confidence in God (:7).  Because of this, they have fallen, but we have been made to stand (:8).


Psalm 21

Psalm 21:1-13-David thanks God for the many blessings He has given him (:1-6).  David says that the Lord will save the king...and defeat his enemies (:7-12).  He says that he will publicly make his expressions of praise to God.


Prayer: Father, thank You for the beauty of Your creation.  Everywhere I look I see your handiwork.  It clearly reveals the reality of Your existence.  And Lord, thank You for Your Word.  Through it I have come to know You.  And, through it, I have learned of salvation.  Thank You that You have given me all that I need to know in order to live this life in a manner that is in keeping with Your nature…and, to have eternal life, as well.

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