Psalm 19

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director; a psalm of David.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the sky displays his handiwork.

The parallelism indicates that in this verse “the heavens” refer to the physical sky, not God’s dwelling place. Since the sun, moon, and stars are the work of God they declare his glory.

2 Day after day it speaks out; night after night it reveals his greatness.

Verse 2 continues on from verse 1 in saying that the declaring goes on continually throughout the day and night. Some translations (e.g., NIV) translate the second half of the verse to say that the sky reveals God’s knowledge.

That is, as mankind reflects upon the vast expanse of heaven, with its light by day and its intimation of a greater universe by night, that reflection may open up an awareness and knowledge of God, the Creator, who by his hands created a glory beyond the comprehension of the human mind.1

3 There is no actual speech or word, nor is its voice literally heard.

4 Yet its voice echoes throughout the earth; its words carry to the distant horizon. In the sky he has pitched a tent for the sun.

There is a subtlety in nature’s praise of God. On the one hand, there is no audible noise. On the other hand, the message is conveyed throughout the earth.

To the sensitive, the heavenly praise of God’s glory may be an overwhelming experience, whereas to the insensitive, sky is simply sky and stars are only stars; they point to nothing beyond. In this hymn of praise, it is not the primary purpose of the psalmist to draw upon nature as a vehicle of revelation, or as a source of the knowledge of God apart from the revelation in law (or Torah, v 8); indeed, there is more than a suggestion that the reflection of God’s praise in the universe is perceptible only to those already sensitive to God’s revelation and purpose.2

5 Like a bridegroom it emerges from its chamber; like a strong man it enjoys running its course.

While other ancient Near Eastern cultures might deify the sun, the psalmist personifies it. The sun praises the one true God but is not a deity itself (Gen. 1:3-19).

The sun is metaphorically compared to a “bridegroom” and to a “champion” (v. 5). The joy of the bridegroom, coming from the wedding canopy or the bridal chamber, represents the radiance of the sun. The “champion” (= “warrior” or “valiant man”), rejoicing in his strength as he sets out to run his course, represents the power of the sun as it seems to move through “its circuit” (v. 6).3

6 It emerges from the distant horizon, and goes from one end of the sky to the other; nothing can escape its heat.

The key clause . . . is in v 7 [6]: “there is none hidden from its (the sun’s) heat.” The clause marks the transition between the two parts of the psalm and at the same time links them intimately together. Just as the sun dominates the daytime sky, so too does Torah dominate human life. And as the sun can be both welcome, in giving warmth, and terrifying in its unrelenting heat, so too the Torah can be both life-imparting, but also scorching, testing, and purifying. But neither are dispensable. There could be no life on this planet without the sun; there can be no true human life without the revealed word of God in the Torah.4

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and preserves one’s life. The rules set down by the LORD are reliable and impart wisdom to the inexperienced.

Etymologically, the untaught (petî) [inexperienced] is the open person, one whose mind has not yet been occupied by insight and is therefore in a vulnerable, dangerous position. Yhwh’s declaration concerning what is true and what Yhwh expects gives shape to their mind. It protects them and other people. It makes them reliable instead of unprincipled and immature.5

8 The LORD’s precepts are fair and make one joyful. The LORD’s commands are pure and give insight for life.

9 The commands to fear the LORD are right and endure forever. The judgments given by the LORD are trustworthy and absolutely just.

10 They are of greater value than gold, than even a great amount of pure gold; they bring greater delight than honey, than even the sweetest honey from a honeycomb.

11 Yes, your servant finds moral guidance there; those who obey them receive a rich reward.

12 Who can know all his errors? Please do not punish me for sins I am unaware of.

Goldingay takes issue with common English translations of verse 12. He says this verse is not about understanding one’s own wrongdoing, rather it is expressing puzzlement over how humans can sin even though we can see that God’s expectations make sense (vv 7-11). He goes on to say the second half of the verse is not about forgiveness but about asking for the strength to be obedient.

13 Moreover, keep me from committing flagrant sins; do not allow such sins to control me. Then I will be blameless, and innocent of blatant rebellion.

14 May my words and my thoughts be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my sheltering rock and my redeemer.

A restorer (goel) [redeemer] is the next of kin within a family who takes action or spends resources in order to put things right when a family member is in trouble or has been wronged. Used of God, this verb thus puts us in God’s family and implies God’s accepting family obligations toward us when we are in trouble. “Restore me” therefore implies, “Do your duty by me” by making things right for me.

Perhaps a further implication of this closing acknowledgment of Yhwh as rock and restorer is that it constitutes a recognition that the kind of commitment expressed in vv. 7–13 is a necessity if we are to find Yhwh behaving as rock and restorer.6

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.


  1. Craigie 2004, p. 180 
  2. Craigie 2004, p. 181 
  3. VanGemeren 2008, p. 216 
  4. Craigie 2004, p. 183–184 
  5. Goldingay 2006, loc. 5897-5900 
  6. Goldingay 2006, loc. 6008-6014 
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